U.S. Navy sailors perform F/A-18 turnaround inspections on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz, a nuclear-powered war ship, during an operation in the Indian Ocean Dec. 29, 2020. (Credit: CNS photo/U.S. Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Elliot Schaudt, Handout via Reuters.)
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace urged an extension of the last remaining nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and Russia.
Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, said in a Jan. 15 statement that extending the bilateral treaty known as New START “is essential to maintaining limits on the most dangers nuclear weapons and is an existing mean for needed progress toward nuclear disarmament.”
Set to expire Feb. 5, the 10-year-old New START caps the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs by each country at 1,550.
“I renew our call to extend the New START treaty, for a full five years, and urge President-elect (Joe) Biden to make negotiations for nuclear disarmament a top priority,” Malloy said.
The transition to the Biden administration presents another opportunity for the world’s nuclear powers to adhere to the 50-year-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the bishop added. That treaty requires the nuclear powers to work toward reducing their arsenals while other nations pledged not to develop such destructive weapons.
The U.S. bishops have a long record of supporting agreements such as New START to limit and eventually eliminate nuclear stockpiles and promote world peace.
Malloy’s statement also recognized that the global Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons goes into force Jan. 22. The pact adopted by 122 nations in 2017 at the United Nations makes nuclear weapons illegal. Nuclear weapon states and allies falling under the U.S. nuclear umbrella have opposed the treaty and have not ratified it.
The treaty has been ratified by 51 nations, with the Vatican among the first governments to do so in 2017.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed a five-year extension of New START, but was rebuffed by President Donald Trump, who wanted to bring China into talks. Chinese officials have refused.
Arms control advocates are hopeful that Biden will extend the treaty, opening the door to deeper cuts in the arsenals of both nations.