After accusing the West of being actively involved in attempts to strike critical air bases in Russia, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia was suspending its participation in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with the United States. “In this regard, I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty,” Putin said at the end of a major speech to parliament.
According to the Russian leader, certain people in Washington were considering restarting nuclear testing, so Russia’s defense ministry and nuclear industry should be prepared to test its nuclear weapons if necessary. “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.” In his speech, Putin also claimed that the West had direct involvement in the Ukrainian attacks on bases housing Russian strategic bombers located far inside Russian territory. As a result, according to Putin, NATO’s demands that Moscow submits to nuclear base inspections mandated by the New START treaty are absurd.
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The New START Treaty, signed in 2010 and set to expire in 2026, limits the quantity of the enormous Cold War-era nuclear arsenals that Russia and the United States still possess. Signed by then-U.S. President Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, the New START restricts the number of strategic nuclear weapons the United States and Russia can operate. New START entered force in 2011 and was extended for another five years in 2021. It enables American and Russian inspectors to ensure that both sides abide by the treaty. The deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers of both sides were limited by the New START Treaty to 1,550 warheads.
By 2018, the main limitations had been met by both sides. In March 2020, the COVID-19 epidemic, however, forced the agreement’s inspections to be suspended. Russia postponed the November meetings in Egypt between Moscow and Washington to discuss restarting inspections, and neither side has chosen a new date. Despite what it called a harmful American approach to arms control, Russia stated it wished to keep the treaty in place. A nuclear conflict between nuclear powers must be avoided at all costs, according to Russia and the United States, which possess nearly 90% of the world’s weapons together. But due to the Russo-Ukrainian war, the two countries have come close to an open conflict.
Russia maintains that Washington imposed anti Russia sanctions that prevented Moscow from conducting “unobstructed inspections” on US soil and resulted in “obvious unilateral advantages for the American party.” On the other hand, the US has repeatedly accused Russia of breaking the treaty by refusing to permit inspection activities on its territory. Putin has also stated that Russia cannot allow American inspections as part of New START due to the possibility that the information gathered during inspections would be provided by the US to Ukraine, which could then launch attacks on Russia’s strategic military facilities. Although the New START deal has only been suspended by Russia and neither party has made any withdrawal announcements, even a brief suspension period could increase the nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia.
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