During President Vladimir Putin’s state-of-the-nation address, the Russian leader announced that Moscow would be suspending its participation in the New START treaty, a nuclear treaty with the US that limits the number of nuclear weapons each country can hold.
"They want to inflict a ‘strategic defeat’ on us and try to get to our nuclear facilities at the same time," Putin said, according to the Associated Press. "In this context, I have to declare today that Russia is suspending its participation in the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms."
According to the Daily Mail, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Putin’s decision "deeply unfortunate and irresponsible."
"We’ll be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does, we’ll of course make sure that in any event that we are posturing appropriately for the security of our own country and that of our allies," said Blinken. "I think it matters that we continue to act responsibly in this area … it’s also something the rest of the world expect of us."
US officials have stated that Russia has refused to allow inspections, which were halted during the pandemic, to resume.
"Russia is not complying with its obligation under the New START Treaty to facilitate inspection activities on its territory," a US State Department spokesperson said in January.
"Russia’s refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of US-Russian nuclear arms control," the spokesperson said.
Putin also stated during his address that Russia would be ready to resume nuclear weapons testing if the US does so. This move, the outlet reported, would put an end to the global ban on nuclear weapons tests that has been in place since the Cold War era.
"In this situation, Rosatom and the Defense Ministry must ensure readiness for Russian nuclear weapons tests," Putin said. "We naturally won’t be the first to do it, but if the US conducts tests we will also do it. No one should have dangerous illusions that the global strategic parity could be destroyed."
The New START treaty, also called The Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, signed in 2011 and extended through 2026, sets limits on the amount of intercontinental-range nuclear weapons the two countries can hold. Under the treaty, the US and Russia are both limited to 1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, heavy bombers, and submarine ballistic missiles, 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and deployed heavy bombers, and 800 deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Putin to reconsider his decision, saying "with today’s decision on New START, full arms control architecture has been dismantled."
"I strongly encourage Russia to reconsider its decision and respect existing agreements," he told reporters.
In January, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov claimed that with the US looking to inflict a "strategic defeat" on Russia, the future of the New START treaty could be in jeopardy.
During his speech, Putin said that "we’re not at war with the people of Ukraine," saying that the people of Ukraine are "hostages" of the West.
"One thing should be clear, the more long-range weapons are sent to Ukraine, the longer we will have to push the threat away from our borders.
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