Q Why is it in News?
Recently, Russia approved the extension of the New START treaty . It is the last remaining nuclear Russia-USA arms control treaty which is about to expire in February 2021.
Q How and when was it approved?
Both houses of Russian Parliament (Kremlin) approved the extension of the New START treaty for five years. It was done after a recent telephonic conversation between the newly elected USA President and the Russian President.
At the World Economic Forum’s virtual meeting, the President of Russia hailed the decision to extend the treaty as “a step in the right direction,” but also warned about the rising global rivalries and threats of new conflicts.
The pact’s extension doesn’t require congressional approval in the USA, but Russian lawmakers must ratify the move and its President has to sign the relevant Bill into law.
Q What is this New START Treaty?
It is a treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on measures for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.
The term ‘strategic offensive arms’ applies to nuclear warheads deployed by Strategic Nuclear Delivery Vehicles (‘SNDVs’).
SNDVs are Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (‘ICBMs’) with a range exceeding 5,500 kilometres, strategic bombers, warships (including strategic submarines) and cruise missiles, including air and sea-launched cruise missiles.
It limited Strategic Nuclear Arsenals. It continues the bipartisan process of verifiably reducing the USA and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals by limiting both sides to 700 strategic launchers and 1,550 operational warheads.
It was to lapse in February 2021, but after receiving renewal approval from USA and Russia, will be extended for a five-year period.
Q When this New START Treaty started and what was earlier treaty?
New START Treaty came into force on 5th February, 2011 it Replaced START I Treaty of 1991.
New START has replaced the 1991 START I treaty, which expired in December 2009, and superseded the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which terminated when New START entered into force.
The START Framework of 1991 (at the end of the Cold War) limited both sides to 1,600 strategic delivery vehicles and 6,000 warheads.
The May 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), also known as the Moscow Treaty, committed the United States and Russia to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear forces to 1,700-2,200 warheads apiece.
Q What is the significance of this extension of New START Treaty?
This step by Russia is a welcome move after suspension of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty (INF Treaty) in 2019 and withdrawal of USA and Russia from Open Skies Treaty recently.
An extension of the New START Treaty would mark a rare bright spot in the fraught USA-Russian relationship. This opportunity could be used by both the countries for conducting comprehensive bilateral negotiations on future control over nuclear missile weapons.