On Monday the United States said that Russia has "unilaterally postponed" important nuclear arms control talks without explanation. The resumption of New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New Start) negotiations was supposed to happen this week, but now a potential date for their continuation remains uncertain.
"The United States is ready to reschedule at the earliest possible date as resuming inspections is a priority for sustaining the treaty as an instrument of stability," the US State Department said.
It was a mere weeks ago that the two sides finally agreed to restart the talks for the first time since Russia's Ukraine invasion, given the growing international alarm over the increasing prospect of nuclear confrontation and accompanying rhetoric.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at the time that New START will be focus of bilateral talks in the near future. "We have agreed that the BCC [Bilateral Consultative Commission] will meet in the near future under the terms of the New START Treaty. The work of the BCC is confidential, but we do hope for a constructive session."
New START remains the last significant end of Cold War era agreement on nuclear arms control between Washington and Moscow. It is also one of the last hoped-for points of positive communications between the two sides, given spiraling relations over the Ukraine war.
The commission has not met in more than a year, in October 2021, with central aspects of the treaty since stalled due to attempts of the US to resume nuclear arsenal inspections on Russian soil, which Moscow rebuffed. According to The Associated Press on Monday:
The State Department said Russia had “unilaterally postponed” a meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Commission that was scheduled to begin Tuesday in Egypt and last through next week. It said Russia had promised to propose new dates but had offered no reason for the delay.
Russia had complained that it was actually the US side which "deprive the Russian Federation of the right to conduct inspections on American territory." If New START can't be successfully renewed, this would mark the collapse of the last nuclear agreement between the rival superpowers, creating an ever more dangerous situation for the world.
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Below is a summary definition of New START and where things stand via Arms Control Association...
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) was signed April 8, 2010, in Prague by the United States and Russia and entered into force on Feb. 5, 2011. New START replaced the 1991 START I treaty, which expired December 2009, and superseded the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which terminated when New START entered into force.
New START continues the bipartisan process of verifiably reducing U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals begun by former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. New START is the first verifiable U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty to take effect since START I in 1994.
The United States and Russia agreed on Feb. 3, 2021, to extend New START by five years, as allowed by the treaty text, until Feb. 5, 2026.