Elements within the Russian government are reportedly advocating a withdrawal of Moscow’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), an international agreement to suspend all nuclear-weapons tests. The 1996 document has never come into force because some nations, including the US, have not ratified it.
The proposed move to withdraw its ratification would be symbolic rather than practical, rendering Russia’s stance regarding CTBT as the same as the US’ stance, according to the business daily Kommersant, which reported the deliberations on Thursday. The discussion is at an early stage, news outlet also said.
The treaty was mentioned on Wednesday by Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry. During a weekly media briefing, the diplomat noted that Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of the Partial Test Ban Treaty.
That agreement banned all nuclear tests except those conducted underground. Zakharova reminded media that the attempt in 1996 to expand the prohibition failed, and blamed “destructive and irresponsible actions” of the US for that.
In 2018, the Trump White House inserted a refusal to ratify CTBT into an update of the US nuclear posture. His successor, Joe Biden, formally reversed that policy. The 2022 review expressed commitment to put the treaty into force. Experts believe, however, that the White House is unlikely to get the necessary votes in Congress to deliver on this pledge.
Washington is not the only stakeholder standing in the way of the CTBT. The treaty needs to be supported by the 44 nations that, in 1996, had nuclear reactors and participated in the Conference on Disarmament that year. India, Pakistan and North Korea did not sign the treaty at all, while China, Egypt, Iran and Israel did not ratify it, like the US.
The US conducted its most recent nuclear test in 1992, while Russia, or the then-Soviet Union, did the same in 1990. Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed concern that Washington would renew testing amid a modernization of its nuclear stockpile and has warned that Moscow would lift its de facto moratorium in response.
“Nobody should have the dangerous illusion that the strategic parity can be destroyed,” the Russian leader stated during a keynote speech in February.