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Russian Parliament OKs Treaty Extension01/27 06:13

   

   MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian lawmakers on Wednesday quickly approved the extension 
of the last remaining nuclear Russia-U.S. arms control, a fast-track action 
that comes just days before it's due to expire.

   Both houses of parliament voted unanimously to extend the New START treaty 
for five years, a day after a phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and 
Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin said they agreed to complete the 
necessary extension procedures in the next few days.

   The pact's extension doesn't require congressional approval in the U.S., but 
Russian lawmakers must ratify the move and Putin has to sign the relevant bill 
into law.

   Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told lawmakers that the extension 
will be validated by exchanging diplomatic notes once all the procedures are 
completed.

   Upper house Speaker Valentina Matvienko said after the vote that the 
decision to extend the pact shows that Russia and the U.S. can reach agreements 
on major issues despite the tensions between them.

   New START expires on Feb. 5. After taking office last week, Biden proposed 
extending the treaty for five years, and the Kremlin quickly welcomed the offer.

   The treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President 
Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear 
warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site 
inspections to verify compliance.

   Biden indicated during the campaign that he favored the preservation of the 
New START treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as U.S. vice president.

   Russia has long proposed prolonging the pact without any conditions or 
changes, but the Trump administration waited until last year to start talks and 
made the extension contingent on a set of demands. The talks stalled, and 
months of bargaining have failed to narrow differences.

   The negotiations were also marred by tensions between Russia and the United 
States, which have been fueled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow's meddling in 
the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other irritants.

   After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range 
Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms 
control deal between the two countries.

   Earlier this month, Russia announced that it would follow the U.S. in 
pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, which allowed surveillance flights over 
military facilities, to help build trust and transparency between Russia and 
the West.

   Before the Biden administration took office, Russia always had offered to 
extend New START for five years --- a possibility that was envisaged by the 
pact at the time it was signed. But President Donald Trump charged that it put 
the U.S. at a disadvantage. Trump initially insisted that China be added to the 
treaty, an idea that Beijing bluntly dismissed.

   The Trump administration then proposed to extend New START for just one year 
and also sought to expand it to include limits on battlefield nuclear weapons.

 
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