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As tensions with the United States over the conflict in Ukraine rise, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia was suspending its participation in the New START treaty, the final major nuclear weapons limitation agreement with the United States.
The deal, which was signed in 2010 by Dmitry Medvedev of Russia and then-U.S. President Barack Obama, places a limit on the number of strategic nuclear weapons that may be deployed by both countries. It was supposed to end in 2026.
In his state-of-the-nation speech, Putin also stated that Russia should be prepared to begin nuclear weapons testing if the U.S. did so. If this were to happen, the Cold War-era global moratorium on nuclear testing would be lifted.
Putin defended his decision to suspend Russia’s New START obligations by alleging that the United States and its NATO partners had publicly stated their desire to see Moscow defeated in Ukraine.
Without providing any supporting data, the Russian leader said that some individuals in Washington were considering restarting nuclear tests. Hence, he argued, the Russian Ministry of Defense and Nuclear Corporation had to be prepared to test nuclear weapons if required.
The Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Weapons is known as New START informally.
Putin’s action was criticized by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who according to Reuters stated the “with today’s decision on New START, full arms control architecture has been dismantled.”
“It is President Putin who started this imperial war of conquest … As Putin made clear today, he’s preparing for more war … Putin must not win … It would be dangerous for our own security and the whole world,” “I regret the decision by Russia to suspend its participation in (the) New START program”.
Putin derided NATO’s call for Moscow to let the restart of US inspections of Russian nuclear weapons installations on Tuesday, calling it “some kind of theater of the absurd.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, Russia and the U.S. have postponed reciprocal inspections under New START. Nevertheless, Moscow refused to allow them to resume last October, casting doubt on the survival of the agreement. In accordance with the convention, Russia also put off a scheduled round of discussions indefinitely.
The United States’ ability to exercise key treaty rights is hindered by Russia’s unwillingness to permit the inspections, according to the U.S. State Department, which also puts the future of U.S.-Russian nuclear weapons control in jeopardy. Nothing, it was noted, prohibits Russian inspectors from inspecting American installations.
On Tuesday, Putin disputed the US claim, claiming that some Russian requests for access to particular American sites had been denied by Washington.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated in Athens that Russia’s move was reckless and that Washington will closely monitor what Moscow was doing.