Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a measure to formally suspend the last remaining nuclear arms pact with the United States amid high tensions over the war in Ukraine.
Russia will no longer take part in the New START treaty, according to the bill he signed that was published by the Kremlin. The document says that it’s up to the president to decide whether Moscow could return to the pact.
Putin had declared a week ago in his state-of-the-nation address that Moscow was suspending its participation in the 2010 New START treaty. He had charged that Russia can’t accept U.S. inspections of its nuclear sites under the pact at a time when Washington and its NATO allies have openly declared Russia’s defeat in Ukraine as their goal.
Both houses of parliament quickly ratified Putin’s bill on the pact’s suspension last week. On Tuesday, Putin signed it into law, effective immediately.
Putin has emphasized that Moscow was not withdrawing from the pact altogether, and the Russian Foreign Ministry said the country would respect the caps on nuclear weapons set under the treaty and keep notifying the United States about test launches of ballistic missiles.
“As of today, Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty,” Putin said in a national address last week. “We’re not withdrawing from the agreement,” he added. “We’re just suspending [our participation in] it.”
On Monday, a federal official in charge of arms control criticized Russia as being not a responsible nuclear partner after Putin’s speech.
“Only a few days ago, President Putin announced that Russia was unilaterally suspending the implementation of the New START treaty. Russia is once again showing the world that it is not a responsible nuclear power,” Bonnie Jenkins, the U.S. under-secretary for Arms Control and International Security, told a United Nations conference in Geneva, according to the Reuters news agency.
What the Treaty Does
Signed by then-presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, the treaty limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, while the agreement envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance. President Joe Biden in early 2021 signed another five-year extension of the treaty.
The inspections have been dormant since 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Discussions on resuming them were supposed to have taken place last November, but Russia abruptly called them off.
The Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation estimates that Russia’s arsenal consists of about 5,977 nuclear warheads, while the United States currently has about 5,550 warheads.
Several weeks ago, the State Department told Congress in a report that Moscow stopped partaking in the New START treaty since the start of the Ukraine war.
“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,” the State Department said in a report dated Jan. 31 (pdf).
Despite Russia’s recent moves, the agency’s report noted that the United States “continues to assess that there is not a strategic imbalance between the United States and the Russian Federation that endangers the national security interest of the United States.”
“The United States retains a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal that is sufficient to deter strategic attack, assure allies and partners, and respond in the event of adversary attack,” the report stated, adding that the now-suspended treaty “continues to constrain Russian strategic nuclear forces and provides insight into Russian forces.”
This is a developing news story. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times