Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 21 announced Moscow’s unilateral suspension of its participation in the New START treaty, the last remaining nuclear arms control pact with the United States.
“As of today, Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty,” Putin said in a national address, which he delivered almost one year after the launch of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We’re not withdrawing from the agreement,” he clarified. “We’re just suspending [our participation in] it.”
The New START treaty, which was first signed in 2010 and took effect the following year, aims to set limits on both countries’ sizable nuclear arsenals.
In 2021, shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden took office, the treaty was extended by a further five years.
The United States and Russia are believed to account for roughly 90 percent of the world’s existing nuclear warheads.
According to the Washington-based Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation, Russia’s arsenal consists of some 5,977 nuclear warheads, while the United States currently possesses about 5,550 warheads.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the move as “unfortunate and irresponsible.”
“We’ll be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does,” Blinken told reporters. “We’ll, of course, make sure that in any event we are postured appropriately for the security of our own country and that of our allies.”
The Brussels-based NATO alliance, for its part, said Putin’s announcement signaled the end of the existing global arms-control architecture.
“With today’s decision [by Russia] on New START, full arms control architecture has been dismantled,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters. “I strongly encourage Russia to reconsider its decision and respect existing agreements.”
Putin Calls Nuke Site Inspections ‘Absurd’
Last month, the U.S. State Department claimed in a report to Congress that Russia was refusing to allow on-site inspections of its nuclear-weapons facilities. The report also claimed that Moscow had failed to respond to the Biden administration’s requests to discuss its alleged noncompliance with the New START treaty.
By Adam Morrow
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