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Russians and Americans Welcome Extension of New Start Treaty

Running Numbers by Dina Smeltz and Brendan Helm

Dina Smeltz and Brendan Helm discuss President Biden's extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

On day 2 of the Biden administration, officials announced that the US President would be seeking a five-year extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia that was set to expire on February 5. The agreement, which is the last remaining treaty that regulates the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, places limits on the amount of deployed nuclear missile launchers, nuclear warheads, and nuclear-capable bombers held by Russia and the United States. A joint survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Levada Analytical Center in Moscow finds broad support in both countries for the extension of the treaty. Publics in both countries also think it is essential for the two countries to work together on other nuclear issues that include preventing Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons.

Solid Majorities Support New START Extension

The survey data show that both Russian and American publics welcome the extension of New START. Seven in ten Americans (73%) say that the United States should participate in the New START Treaty between Russia and the United States to limit the number of long-range nuclear warheads in each country’s arsenal for the next five years (23% oppose). An even larger majority of Russians (80%) support extending the treaty (11% oppose).

In general, however, Americans would rather negotiate new international security agreements with Russia even if it means the two sides might reach an impasse (65%) than resign original security agreements between Washington and Moscow (20%). One in ten Americans favors remaining outside of these agreements even if it sets off a new arms race (11%). (This question was only asked in the United States.)

Working on Nuclear Issues Essential to Both Publics

Despite the strains in relations between Moscow and Washington, solid majorities of Russians (70%) and Americans (69%) say it is essential that the United States and Russia limit the buildup of nuclear weapons in both countries. Six in ten Russians and seven in ten Americans also think it is essential that the two countries and work together to prevent both North Korea and Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability (see figure below).

US officials have suggested that the quick renewal of New START might lead to new arms control arrangements that could include China. In the meantime, six in ten Russians (60%) and a narrow majority of Americans (53%) also say it is essential for the United States and Russia to negotiate conventional arms agreements. In a separate question asked only in Russia, eight in ten Russians (80%) say they support beginning new arms control negotiations between the US and Russia.

About the Authors
Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
Dina Smeltz, a polling expert, has more than 25 years experience designing and fielding international social and political surveys. Prior to joining the Council to lead its annual survey of American attitudes on US foreign policy, she served in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the US State Department's Office of Research from 1992 to 2001.
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
Research Assistant
Council expert Brendan Helm
Brendan Helm is a research assistant for the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy and Public Opinion teams at the Council. After earning his undergraduate degree in international relations from the College of William and Mary, he worked at Teaching, Research, and International Policy—a survey project which examined the gap between academia and policymaking.
Council expert Brendan Helm