06:58 GMT08 March 2021
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden plans to engage with Russia "very quickly" regarding extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said during his confirmation hearing.

    "This is something that we have to tackle but only when President-elect becomes President tomorrow. But it is also something that we have to engage very, very quickly because the deadline is very fast upon us," Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. "We will seek the extension, the President-elect has to decide on a duration."

    Blinken praised Russia for making good on its obligations under the last arms control agreement between the two countries.

    "Based on what I have seen, based on what the Trump administration reported when it comes to New START Russia was making good on its obligations. New START is not some kind of gift we give to the Russians, its manifestly in our self-interests in terms of giving us a predictable cap on the core of Russia’s nuclear arsenals as well as giving us tremendous access to data and inspections that we otherwise wouldn’t have," he said.

    Blinken made clear that there were no preliminary contacts with the Russian side on the matter as Biden’s team abides by the principle "one President at a time."

    At the same time, Pentagon chief nominee Lloyd Austin said in written testimony to lawmakers' questions that extending New START with Russia is in the national security interest of the United States.

    "Yes, I do and so does President-elect [Joe] Biden," Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee when asked if extending the New START Treaty is in US national security interests. "Nuclear arms control is in the US national security interest."

    The New START treaty, the last remaining US-Russian arms control pact, expires on February 5.

    Tags:
    Lloyd Austin, weapons, US, Russia, negotiations
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