Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he would be suspending Russia's participation in the only agreement between it and the United States that regulates their nuclear arsenals.
Putin, in a Tuesday address in front of the country's parliament, reiterated a long list of grievances to justify his actions in Russia and in Ukraine, including claims about neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian government and NATO aggression. He also announced Russia would be halting its participation in the New START Treaty.
NEW START TREATY: PUTIN SUSPENDS PARTICIPATION IN LAST REMAINING NUCLEAR DEAL WITH US
"I have to say today that Russia is suspending its participation in New START. I repeat, not withdrawing from the treaty, no, but merely suspending its participation," the president said on Tuesday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Putin’s announcement “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible,” adding that "we'll be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does.” He added that the U.S. is willing to start talks about the treaty “at any time with Russia, irrespective of anything else going on in the world.”
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty in 2010 to manage their nuclear arsenals. The two sides agreed to extend it just days before its expiration in February 2021 for another five years into 2026. Per the agreement, Moscow and Washington committed to a maximum of 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles or deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles, a maximum of 700 deployed ICBMs, SBLMs, and deployed heavy bombers, and 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
Each side can conduct as many as 18 inspections of nuclear weapons sites annually to ensure the other is compliant with the treaty, though both sides agreed to pause that provision in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The two sides were set to meet in November in Egypt to start talks about resuming inspections, but the Russian side postponed it.
“Naturally, the events unfolding inside and around Ukraine in this case impact that,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said at the time. “Arms control and the dialogue in this sphere can’t be immune to what is happening around, and the bigger picture, which is quite complicated and largely disquieting, has played a role.”
The State Department revealed in late January that Russia had not been in compliance with aspects of the treaty due to its decision last August to stop allowing inspectors.
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“Russia is not complying with its obligation under the New START Treaty to facilitate inspection activities on its territory,” a State Department spokesman said on Jan. 31. "Russia’s refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control.”
President Joe Biden agreed to an extension of the New START Treaty in 2021, though the U.S. withdrew from two other Cold War-era agreements during Donald Trump’s presidency due to alleged Russian violations.
Throughout the war in Ukraine, which is about to reach its one-year mark, Putin has threatened to use a low-yield nuclear weapon if absolutely necessary, though Western officials seemingly believe the threat of such an action has lessened.