Your Connection To Jazz, Blues and NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

U.S., Russia nuclear treaty is big deal when there's an arsenal in your backyard

The USS Michigan, a guided missile submarine that calls Naval Base Kitsap home, prepares to dock at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in the Philippines on March 25, 2014.
Jun Dumaguing
The Associated Press file
The USS Michigan, a guided missile submarine that calls Naval Base Kitsap home, prepares to dock at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in the Philippines on March 25, 2014.

Russia and the United States have extended a nuclear arms treaty, just before it was set to expire. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, was set to expire Feb. 5.

After taking office last week, President Joe Biden proposed extending the treaty for five years, and the Kremlin quickly welcomed the offer.

The treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads. Biden indicated during the campaign that he favored the preservation of the New START, which was negotiated during his tenure as U.S. vice president.

It’s of particular interest in Kitsap County, where the U.S. keeps a significant portion of its nuclear arsenal. The Navy’s base at Bangor is home to the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific and home to eight of the 14 U.S. subs that carry nuclear missiles.

“When you combine those, it’s thought to be the nation’s largest deployed nuclear weapons stockpile,” said Josh Farley, who covers military affairs for the Kitsap Sun.

Farley talked to KNKX about what the treaty extension means here in the Northwest.


On why it took this long: “The Trump administration had signaled it wanted to have a limited-length extension of New START and pursued that shortly before the presidential election. But they included a freeze on development of new strategic warheads as well. Those talks never really proceeded anywhere. President-elect (at the time) Biden had signaled that he did want an extension of New START, and it sounds as if the agreement that’s come about in recent days is one that will be a clean five-year extension with no other strings attached.”

On nuclear weapons opponents: “There is a small but very dedicated group of anti-nuclear weapons protesters. There’s an organization called the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action that’s right in Bangor’s backyard. It’s off of the base; you can see the fence from its property line. They continue to protest what they believe to be illegal weapons. They’ve been bolstered by a recent U.N. treaty that took effect on January 21, calling for the prohibition of nuclear weapons.

On local Navy officials: “They’re very proud of the work these sailors have done, and they want to make sure that work continues.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ed Ronco came to KNKX in October 2013 as producer and reporter for KNKX’s Morning Edition. Ed started in public radio in 2009 at KCAW in Sitka, Alaska, where he covered everything from city government, to education, crime, science, the arts and more. Prior to public radio, Ed worked in newspapers, including four years at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, where he covered business, then politics and government.