In a much anticipated speech on Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin said he is suspending Russia's participation in the New START nuclear treaty with the United States.
"President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday suspended Russian participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with the United States, warning Washington that Russia had put new ground-based strategic nuclear weapons on combat duty," Reuters reports of the new declaration.
It comes over a year after Moscow signed onto a five year extension, and after in August the US accused Russia of violating the treaty in disallowing US on-site inspections under its stipulations. In response, Washington halted Russian inspectors' ability to do the same on American soil.
Russia had at the time complained that it was actually the US side which "deprive the Russian Federation of the right to conduct inspections on American territory."
"No one should be under the illusion that global strategic parity can be violated," Putin said of New START in the Tuesday remarks delivered in Moscow.
In March 2021 the two sides renewed New START for a period of five years, and it will expire in February 2026 if it's not continued - an increasing possibility given US-Russia relations have deteriorated so fast over the Ukraine war they are near complete breaking point. But this new Putin declaration appears to be the final death knell after the treaty's fate was already extremely uncertain.
The treaty is intended to limit and reduce nuclear arms on either side, setting a limit of no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 missiles. START I began in 1991, with New START signed under the Obama and Medvedev administrations in 2010 as a successor agreement.
Putin's speech, which most commentators saw little that was new in, came just after President Biden showed up in Kiev for a surprise visit...
Much of Tuesday's speech was about reaffirming Russia's resolve in Ukraine at a moment NATO powers seem more deeply involved than ever. "Step by step, we will carefully and systematically achieve the aims that face us," Putin said in the speech which came just ahead of the anniversary of the invasion on Feb. 24, which will be Friday.
He also rearticulated Russia's reasons for going to war. "Russia did its best to solve the problem in Ukraine peacefully, but the statements of Western leaders turned out to be fraudulent and untrue," Putin said, calling Ukraine part of the "historical Russian land."