Russia says "vigorous efforts" needed to extend New START arms treaty

FILE PHOTO: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov arrives to the Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual news conference in Moscow, Russia December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Vigorous efforts are needed for Russia and the United States to reach a deal on extending the New START nuclear arms control pact before it expires next month, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which was signed in 2010 and is set to expire on Feb. 5, limits the numbers of strategic nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers that Russia and the United States can deploy.

A failure to extend New START could fuel a potential arms race and tensions between Moscow and Washington, defence experts have warned.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow and Washington were stepping up efforts to extend the pact because its expiration was rapidly approaching.

"Vigorous efforts are required to secure an extension," Peskov told reporters on a conference call. "The extension is in the interest of both countries, as well as the whole world."

The U.S. disarmament ambassador said that President Joe Biden's planned extension of the New START arms control treaty with Russia was in the United States' national security interests, and just the beginning of efforts to engage Moscow.

"This extension makes even more sense when the relationship with Russia is not at a good stage," Robert Wood told the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

Russia's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, said Moscow was eager for the pact to be extended.

"The time won with an extension of New START would allow Russia and the United States to seriously work on jointly finding the answers to questions that have arisen in the field of international security and strategic stability," Gatilov told the meeting.

Several country delegations at the conference, including Switzerland, also voiced encouragement for an extension of the treaty.

Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia's Security Council, on Wednesday discussed extending the treaty in a phone call with new U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

The White House said last week that U.S. President Joe Biden will seek a five-year extension to New START, the last major nuclear arms pact between the United States and Russia.

The Kremlin had said that it would welcome efforts by the Biden administration to extend the pact.

(Reporting by Dmitry Antonov and Maria Kiselyova; Additional reporting by Emma Farge and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Andrew Osborn, Timothy Heritage, William Maclean)

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