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Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.

  • Russia has already expressed support for five-year extension — a simple process that only requires an exchange of diplomatic notes.
  • Biden has long supported an extension, but his administration hadn't previously committed to the five-year timeframe.

The other side: The Trump administration was skeptical of New START, arguing that it had allowed Russia to build up advanced nuclear systems that aren't constrained by the treaty.

  • Trump's arms control envoy, Marshall Billingslea, had also insisted that China be brought into the arms control process.
  • Billingslea attempted to negotiate a shorter-term extension of New START, paired with a freeze on all nuclear warheads and a commitment to broaden future talks to include other nuclear powers. That deal never came together.

The big picture: The Biden administration argues that the U.S. is better off pursuing discussions on the future of arms control — and confrontation with Russia on other issues — with the New START guardrails in place.

  • Officials told the Post that Biden is ruling out a "reset" with Russia, which the Obama administration had initially opted for, in light of the Kremlin's "reckless and aggressive actions" in recent years.
  • The officials said Biden will ask newly confirmed Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to provide him with full intelligence assessments on Russia's alleged interference in the 2020 election, poisoning of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and hacking of U.S. federal agencies.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 28, 2021 - World

Biden reviews U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Australia opposes UN report warning Great Barrier Reef is "in danger"

A green sea turtle swimming among the corals at Lady Elliot island, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Great Barrier Reef should be included in a list of World Heritage Sites that are "in danger" from climate change, a United Nations committee said in a report Tuesday.

Yes, but: Australia's government said it will "strongly oppose" the recommendation by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema: Abolishing filibuster would weaken "democracy's guardrails"

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema at the U.S. Capitol building earlier this month. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) defended her opposition to abolishing the 60-vote legislative filibuster in a Washington Post op-ed published Monday night, saying to do so would weaken "democracy's guardrails."

Why it matters: There have been growing calls from Democrats, particularly progressives, to overhaul the rules as the Senate prepares to vote Tuesday on a massive voting rights package. But Sinema writes in her op-ed that if this were to happen "we will lose much more than we gain."

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