NEW DELHI: President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said that Russia was suspending its participation in the New START treaty with the United States that limits the two sides’ strategic nuclear arsenals.
He mentioned that Russia was not withdrawing from the treaty but the suspension further imperils the last remaining pillar of arms control between the United States and Russia, which between them hold nearly 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads – enough to destroy the planet many times over.
What is New START Treaty?
* Signed by then-US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, the New START treaty caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the US and Russia can deploy.
*It came into force in 2011 and was extended in 2021 for five more years after US President Joe Biden took office.
*It allows both American and Russian inspectors to ensure that both sides are complying with the treaty.
*Inspections under the agreement were put on hold in March 2020 owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
*Talks between Moscow and Washington on resuming inspections were due in last November in Egypt, but Russia postponed them and a new date has also not been fixed.
What Putin said on suspension of the treaty
*Speaking in his state-of-the-nation address, Putin on Tuesday said Russia’s nuclear energy company Rosatom must also ensure the country’s readiness to test a nuclear weapon, if needed. “Of course, we will not be the first to do this. But if the United States tests, then we will,” he said. “No one must be under any dangerous illusions that global strategic parity can be destroyed.”
*Explaining his decision to suspend Russia’s obligations under New START, Putin accused the US and its NATO allies of openly declaring the goal of Russia’s defeat in Ukraine. “They want to inflict a ‘strategic defeat’ on us and try to get to our nuclear facilities at the same time,” he said, declaring his decision to suspend Russia’s participation in the treaty. “In this context, I have to declare today that Russia is suspending its participation in the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms.”
*Putin said, without providing evidence, that the West was directly involved in Ukrainian attacks on bases for Russian strategic bomber planes deep inside Russian territory.
*He said NATO demands that Russia should allow inspections of its nuclear bases under the New START treaty were therefore absurd.
*”The US and NATO openly say that their goal is to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia. And what – after that, they are going to drive around our defence facilities, including the newest ones, as if nothing had happened?,” he added.
*”A week ago, I signed a decree on putting new ground-based strategic systems on combat duty. Are they going to stick their nose in there too, or what? And they think that everything is so simple? What are we going to let them in there just like that?”
Putin said NATO members France and Britain also had nuclear weapons aimed at Russia that should be taken into account.
Leaders’, experts’ take on Putin’s announcement
*Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, with close to 6,000 warheads, experts say.
*Analysts also said Russia’s move meant it would become more difficult to verify continued compliance with the treaty.
*”Suspension of the treaty is not equal to leaving the treaty, I assume there will be no Russian build-up above the treaty limits,” Andrey Baklitskiy of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research said. “But there will be much fewer opportunities to verify this (only national technical means), so compliance will be disputed,” he added.
*NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg voiced regret about Putin’s move, saying that “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 said.
What Russia hinted at?
Russia said earlier this month that it wanted to preserve the treaty, despite what it called a destructive US approach to arms control.
Together, Russia and the United States account for about 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads, and both sides have stressed that war between nuclear powers must be avoided at all costs.
However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed the two countries closer to direct confrontation than at any time in the past 60 years.

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