Russia has suspended its participation in the New START treaty with the United States, which limits the two sides' strategic nuclear arsenals. Although Russia is not withdrawing from the treaty, the suspension imperils the last remaining pillar of arms control between the two countries, which hold nearly 90% of the world's nuclear warheads. President Vladimir Putin announced the suspension during a major speech to parliament.
Russia Prepares to Test Nuclear Weapons if Necessary
Putin also stated that Russia's nuclear energy company, Rosatom, must ensure the country's readiness to test a nuclear weapon if needed. He emphasized that Russia will not be the first to do so, but if the United States tests, Russia will respond. Putin highlighted that no one should be under any dangerous illusions that global strategic parity can be destroyed.
New START Treaty Caps Nuclear Warheads and Delivery Systems
The New START treaty was signed in Prague in 2010, came into effect the following year, and was extended in 2021 for five more years. The treaty caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia can deploy and the deployment of land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them. Russia has close to 6,000 nuclear warheads, making it the country with the world's largest stockpile of nuclear weapons.
Russia's Suspension Impacts Compliance Verification
Analysts have noted that Russia's suspension of the treaty will make verifying continued compliance more difficult. Although the suspension differs from leaving the treaty, there will be fewer opportunities to verify compliance, which could result in disputes. Putin also stated, without providing evidence, that NATO's demand for inspections of Russia's nuclear bases under the New START treaty is absurd.
Putin Addresses NATO's Strategic Defeat of Russia
In his speech, Putin addressed the goal of the United States and NATO to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia. He questioned the possibility of NATO driving around Russia's defense facilities, including the newest ones, and asked if they would stick their nose into Russia's new ground-based strategic systems. Putin also emphasized that NATO members France and Britain have nuclear weapons aimed at Russia, which should be considered.