Moscow yesterday welcomed US President Joe Biden's proposal to extend New START with Russia by 5 years, days before the expiration of the last nuclear reduction treaty between the two powers, but vowed to press Moscow hard on a host of concerns.
The announcement on the first full day of Biden's presidency is intended to prevent a nuclear arms race but makes clear he will not attempt a "reset" of relations as attempted in varying forms by every post-Cold War president.
The accord restricts the former Cold War rivals to a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads each, a cut of about 30 percent from a limit set in 2002, and 800 launchers and bombers -- enough to blow up the world many times over.
The treaty expires on February 5. Talks last year stalled over Trump's insistence that China also become a party to the agreement, even though Beijing said it would not participate.
"The United States intends to seek a five-year extension of New START, as the treaty permits," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
But she said that the new intelligence chief, Avril Haines, would also start an investigation into Russia's suspected poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as well as on Russia's alleged election interference and on whether it was behind the massive SolarWinds hack that shook the US government and corporations. Psaki said the United States would also investigate bounties reportedly paid by Russian intelligence to extremists in Afghanistan as rewards for killing US troops.
"We can only welcome the political will to extend this document," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. He said Moscow needed more time to study the US administration's offer.