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Russian Lawmakers Approve Extension Of Key Nuke Pact With U.S.

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Russia's State Duma

MOSCOW -- Russia has approved an extension of the New START nuclear arms control treaty as Moscow and Washington look to save the last major pact of its kind.

The lower house of parliament, the State Duma, voted unanimously on January 27 to extend the treaty for five years. It was then approved quickly in the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council.

The pact, signed in 2010, was set to expire next week.

A day earlier, U.S. and Russian officials announced an agreement to extend the accord, which doesn't require approval from the U.S. Congress.

The extension is "a step in the right direction," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an address to the Davos Economic Summit on January 27, adding that "challenges remain" that could cause "a real setback in global development, which is fraught with a fight of all against all and attempts to resolve looming controversies through a search for internal and external enemies."

"The situation can develop unpredictably and spin out of control if nothing is done to prevent it," he said, while expressing "hope" that global conflicts are a thing of the past since they could mean "the end of civilization."

In a thinly veiled comment aimed at Western nations that have sanctions imposed on Moscow over its illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in 2014 and its ongoing support to separatists in eastern Ukraine, Putin warned against putting "pressure on the countries that do not agree with playing the role of obedient and directed satellites."

"The use of trade barriers, illegal sanctions, restrictions in financial, technological, information spheres. These types of games without rules increase the risk of one side using military weapons. That is the real danger," Putin said.

New START, the last remaining arms-control pact between Washington and Moscow, limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads at 1,550, deployed strategic delivery systems at 700, and provides for a verification regime.

Former President Donald Trump's administration made a late attempt to negotiate limits on other categories of nuclear weapons and add China to the treaty, stalling negotiations. A bid to agree to a shorter extension also ran into complications, leaving the fate of the treaty to the incoming administration of President Joe Biden just two weeks before its expiration.

Biden had long advocated extending the treaty even if it could not be strengthened and expanded. The two presidents confirmed an agreement on the extension during a January 26 phone call -- their first direct communication since Biden took office six days earlier.

Extending the treaty to allow time for Moscow and Washington to negotiate a new verifiable arms-control arrangement will be welcomed by the United States’ European allies, which were already concerned after Trump withdrew from two other arms-control pacts.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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