Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Soon after Biden's inauguration as president tomorrow, US and Russian diplomats are expected to discuss an extension to New START, the only remaining major agreement regulating their nuclear forces. This can be done quickly; the main outstanding question is whether to prolong it for the maximum five years permitted or settle on a shorter extension.
- With New START renewed, Washington and Moscow will seek clarity on next steps in nuclear threat reduction and arms control.
- This could be a lengthy process, requiring internal reviews of nuclear policy, force posture, arms control and bilateral relations.
- The alternative is an increase in mutual suspicions of force plans, further erosion of trust and pressure to enlarge nuclear budgets.
- COVID-19 management will consume government attention to and budgets for defence and diplomacy.