Can Biden Restore the Arms Control Treaties That Trump Tore Up?

Can Biden Restore the Arms Control Treaties That Trump Tore Up?
President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Delaware, Dec. 28, 2020 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

VIENNA—As the clock ticks down to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration this month, hopes are high that he will rejoin and preserve key arms control agreements that were abandoned or neglected by the outgoing president, Donald Trump. If Biden can successfully reverse course, it will go a long way to restoring America’s credibility, given that Trump has “bankrupted the United States’ word in the world,” as Biden put it in Foreign Affairs last March. “On nonproliferation and nuclear security, the United States cannot be a credible voice while it is abandoning the deals it negotiated,” he wrote.

But how straightforward will it be for Biden to rejoin key pacts like the Iran nuclear deal or the Open Skies Treaty, which Trump withdrew from? And can Biden ensure a timely extension of the sole remaining U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control agreement—the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as New START—before it expires in February?

On all of these fronts, Biden will have to navigate several potential pitfalls.

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