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(FEBRUARY 4 – WASHINGTON) February 5 marks the one-year countdown to the potential end of the last remaining treaty constraining the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the United States and Russia can easily be extended into 2026 if both parties agree, but so far, the Trump administration has not committed to extension. 

Fast facts about New START: 

  • New START entered into force on February 5, 2011 and will expire on February 5, 2021. It can be extended for up to five years through a simple agreement.
  • New START required both countries to limit the number of deployed warheads on ICBMs and SLBMs to no more than 1,550 on 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers by February 5, 2018. Both parties met this deadline.
  • Through 18 on-site inspections per year and a comprehensive data exchange, New START gives the United States and Russia a real-time view into each other’s strategic nuclear forces. That level of transparency helps to create stability in unstable times.
  • It is the last remaining bilateral nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia since the collapse of the INF Treaty in August 2019.

There are bipartisan bills in Congress supporting New START extension; a bill by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Todd Young (R-IN), and a companion House bill by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) urge the Trump administration to extend the treaty through 2026. Separately, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) has introduced legislation to preserve New START’s tenets if it is not extended.

Former officials who served under Republican and Democratic administrations; military leaders; nuclear policy experts; and the top Democratic candidates for President agree the treaty should be extended immediately. 

According to NukeVote2020, a Council for a Livable World tracker of presidential candidate positions on nuclear weapons issues, all leading Democratic candidates support extending the treaty

On his NukeVote2020 questionnaire, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wrote: “It is beyond foolish to allow this treaty to expire, but that is exactly what the Trump administration is doing. As president, I would extend this treaty and work on a new agreement to reduce dramatically US and Russian nuclear arsenals.” 

On her NukeVote2020 questionnaire, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote: “Russia and the United States control strategic nuclear arsenals that pose a danger to each other and the world — we need to do all we can to reduce the danger of a nuclear miscalculation or exchange.” 

Former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, also indicated on their questionnaire that they support extending New START, but did not provide comment. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) recently mentioned the need preserve New START in a presidential debate. 

It is clear that extension is not only advisable, it’s a necessity. Without New START, the United States would be less safe.

“New START gives the United States and Russia unparalleled access to each other’s strategic arsenals, enabling both parties to make decisions based on facts and data, rather than on worst-case scenario planning,” said Senior Policy Director Alexandra Bell, a former State Department official who worked on New START. “There’s just no logical, rational reason to lose the benefits of New START. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has a history of abandoning international agreements even when they are benefitting American security. This time, let’s hope the President makes the right choice and extends New START without further delay.”