Nuclear Treaty extended: What is the nuclear treaty?

Nuclear war: Expert analyses risk of war between US and Russia

Joe Biden warned Vladimir Putin the US would be quick to respond to “malign actions” by Russia as the two presidents discussed an extension to a crucial nuclear weapons deal. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Mr Biden and Mr Putin had spoken on Tuesday about America’s “willingness to extend New Start for five years”. Ms Psaki also said Mr Biden had brought up a number of issues which former President Donald Trump was unwilling to discuss with Mr Putin. She said: “[Mr Biden’s] intention was also to make clear the United States will act firmly in defence of our national interests in response to malign actions by Russia.”

What is the nuclear treaty?

The nuclear treaty between the US and Russia is called the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

New START was signed on April 8, 2010, in Prague, Czech Republic, by the United States and Russia.

The treaty officially came into force on February 11, 2011.

New START aims to continue the bipartisan process of reducing US and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, which was first introduced by former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W Bush.

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The treaty limits both Russia’s operational force – nuclear weapons which can be deployed to the US at short notice – as well as its large non-operational force which could be made operational over time.

These limits enhance US and allied security by capping the potential growth of Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal, which is largely made up of land-based ballistic missiles with additional warheads.

In addition, New START allows the US to monitor Russian compliance with the treaty while allowing the country to obtain information that is unlikely to be otherwise accrued.

Twice a year, the US and Russia exchange date on treaty-accountable ballistic missiles, heavy bombers, nuclear bases, test sites and storage facilities.

This information is maintained in a common database on each country’s nuclear arms and serves as an invaluable source of information for US policymakers, military personnel and intelligence analysts.

The US also makes Russia’s data available on the State Department website, providing a view to members of Congress and interested members of the public of Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal and its record of compliance.

In addition to the data exchange, the two countries often exchange conversations about other Treaty matters.

These notifications are sent confidentially and securely through the US and Russian Nuclear Risk Reduction Centres (NRRC).

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If one of the countries undertakes an action which requires a database update, such as moving a missile from one location to another, producing a new missile or deploying additional warheads on a system, the party has to send a notification within five days.

As each weapon has a unique identification number, the constant flow of data enables the US Government to gain an accurate picture of Russian nuclear activity.

On site inspections are also a central aspect to the New START treaty.

Inspections, or spot checks, of nuclear forces, are used to confirm the data declared through the exchanges and notifications.

The Russian military will receive just 32 hours’ notice before the US inspection team’s arrival on Russian soil, making it increasingly difficult to engage in deception.

To make it even harder, Russia has no idea which military site has been chosen until US officials land in the country.

The short notice and uncertainty increases the chance of detecting inappropriate activity, therefore deterring non-compliance.

During an inspection, the US team has the chance to select any system of its choice for inspection, while the system facilitates conversations between US and Russian military officers and allows eye-witness observation of Russian military operations on an active nuclear base.

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