The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty expired Dec. 5, and although US and Russian officials did not conclude negotiations on a follow-on pact by then, press reports Monday indicated that the two sides expect to close the deal by the month’s end. Meanwhile, in a joint statement issued on the eve of START’s expiration, the US and Russian governments expressed their “commitment” to continue working together in the spirit of that treaty and ensure that the new pact enters into force “at the earliest possible date.” And in a separate statement Dec. 4, the two governments said they have assurances that Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine will remain non-nuclear-weapon states. The lack of a seamless transition from START to the follow-on agreement has upset some lawmakers who note the loss of bilateral verification measures, at least in the interim. (See the Voice of America report and Ria Novosti report.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.