By Kevin Zhang
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared on Tuesday that Moscow was withdrawing from the New START treaty, the last remaining nuclear arms treaty with the United States, in a bold move igniting tensions with Washington over the war in Ukraine.
Speaking in an address to the Russian nation, Putin also said that Russia should be prepared to resume nuclear weapons tests if the U.S. does, a move that would effectively end the global ban on nuclear weapons tests that has been in place since the end of the Cold War.
Explaining his decision to suspend Russian participation in the 2010 New START treaty, Putin argued that the U.S. and its NATO allies were openly declaring support for Ukraine for the reason of weakening and defeating Russia.
“They want to inflict a ‘strategic defeat’ on us and try to get to our nuclear facilities at the same time,” he said.
Following the speech, he sent a draft bill on the suspension of the pact to his allies in parliament, which are expected to quickly ratify the bill on Wednesday. The bill says that it is up to the Russian president to resume or discontinue Moscow’s participation in the pact.
Putin emphasized that Russia was not completely withdrawing from the pact, and the Russian foreign ministry later said that the country would respect the caps on nuclear weapons set under the treaty.
Russia will also continue to exchange information about test launches of ballistic missiles per earlier agreements with the U.S.
The New START treaty places caps on the number of nuclear weapons and allows for member countries to inspect each other’s nuclear sites. Putin said that he would not allow such inspections after the U.S. and its allies declared the goal of dealing Russia a military defeat in Ukraine and helped the Ukrainian military attack Russian nuclear facilities.