Russia and the United States have struck a deal to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, a move that preserves the last major pact of its kind between the world's two biggest nuclear powers.
The White House did not immediately confirm the Kremlin's announcement but said President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the issue by telephone and agreed that their teams work urgently to complete the extension by February 5, when the treaty expires.
Signed in 2010, the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is a cornerstone of global arms control.
It limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the United States and Russia to 1,550 each as well as the number of land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers that deliver them.
The Kremlin declared the breakthrough, which was widely anticipated, in a statement announcing that Putin and Biden had spoken for the first time since Biden took office on January 20, reports Reuters.
Putin yesterday said the deal was a "step in the right direction" in reducing global tensions. Speaking at the Davos virtual summit, Putin hailed the deal but warned the global situation could still "develop unpredictably and uncontrollably if we sit on our hands."
The Russian parliament's lower house unanimously voted to ratify the agreement. A total of 399 lawmakers voted in favour of extending the agreement, with no votes against or abstentions, reports AFP.
Moscow and Washington had failed to agree an extension under former US President Donald Trump, whose administration had wanted to attach conditions to a renewal that Moscow rejected.
The Kremlin said Putin and Biden "expressed satisfaction" that diplomatic notes between the two nations had been exchanged earlier on Tuesday confirming the pact would be extended and that procedures required for the pact to come into force before it expires would be completed in the coming days.
Biden, however, signalled a tougher US stance on Russia, raising concerns over human rights and "aggression" against Ukraine
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden also raised a raft of worries about the Russian authorities' treatment of opposition members, including the "poisoning of Alexei Navalny."