Biden will seek to extend New START treaty, unclear for how long

Antony J. Blinken, of New York, speaks during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, U.S. January 19, 2021. Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will seek to extend the New START arms control treaty with Russia and will have to decide how long an extension to pursue, his choice for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said on Tuesday.

“We will seek to extend it,” Blinken told lawmakers. “He’ll have to make a decision as president about what duration he would seek,” Blinken added, leaving open the possibility that Biden might seek to extend it by less than the maximum five years allowed under the treaty, which expires Feb. 5.

New START restricted the United States and Russia to deploying no more than 1,550 nuclear warheads, the lowest level in decades, and limited the land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers that deliver them.

The treaty’s lapse would end all restraints on deployments of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear warheads and the missiles, bombers and submarines that carry them, fueling a new nuclear arms race, policy experts have said.

Democrat Biden is to take office on Wednesday, replacing Republican Donald Trump.

Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio