Saturday, January 23, 2021

Extending START

 It is not a big headline story among all the other things newly inaugurated Joe Biden is doing, but it is being reported that despite a generally more hostile approach to Russia, he has agreed with what Russian President Putin has said he wants, which is to simply extend the current nuclear weapons START agreement for five more years. It is possible that out of annoyance with Biden Putin might somehow at this point create a roadblock for this very important decision, but given that the existing treaty expires on Feb. 5, there is not much time to come up with an alternative, and I think that Putin understands the importance of this matter and will hopefully agree to this, even if it might have been good to make some changes in the agreement. 

I note that when this annoucement came out, the newly no longer in office negotiator with the Russians on this issue for now former President Trump, someone named Billingslea, whom I had not previously heard of, publicly criticized this move, claiming that it showed "very poor negotiating skills" on the part of the income administration.  Of course, he had been trying to negotiate a renewal of this agreement for the last couple of years and had failed, with the deadline for renewal now only a couple of weeks away.  Apparently he had failed both by insisting that China be included, which did not wish to be, and also making various demands on the Russians that they were not willing to go along with.  So their record on this was not all that much better than their effort to get Iran to go along with a supposedly better nuclear agreement than the JCPOA that the Trump administration withdrew from without any justification, but with the claim that so withdrawing would lead to a better agreement.

As it is, apparently there are some Republicans in the Congress who think it would be great to get out of the START agreement, just as Trump ended other agreements with Russia.  They think a new nuclear arms race with Russia would be a good thing.  This decision by the incoming administration also is at odds with the more hawkish views of one of its incoming members at the State Department, Victoria Nuland, who apparently supports a much shorter renewal period for the treaty.  This is the sort of thing that is why I posted here when I learned of her appointment that this was one appointment being made by Biden that I did not approve of.

Barkley Rosser

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