MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Moscow was suspending its participation in the New START treaty – the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with the United States – sharply upping the ante amid tensions with Washington over the fighting in Ukraine.
Speaking in his address to the nation, Putin also said Russia should be ready to resume nuclear weapons tests if the United States does so, ending the global nuclear test ban that has been in place since the Cold War.
Explaining his decision to suspend Russia’s obligations under New START, Putin accused the US and its NATO allies of openly declaring the goal of Russia’s defeat in Ukraine.
“They want to inflict a ‘strategic defeat’ on us and at the same time they are trying to reach our nuclear facilities,” he said.
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Putin claimed that while the US insisted on resuming inspections of Russian nuclear sites under the treaty, NATO allies helped Ukraine carry out drone strikes on Russian air bases that house nuclear strategic bombers.
“The drones used for this were equipped and modernized with the help of NATO experts,” Putin said. “And now they want to inspect our defense facilities? In the conditions of today’s confrontation, it sounds like empty nonsense.
Putin emphasized that Russia is suspending its participation in New START and is not withdrawing from the pact yet.
The New START Treaty, signed in 2010 by US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. The agreement provides for extensive on-site inspections to verify compliance.
Just a few days before the treaty expires in February 2021, Russia and the United States agreed to extend it for another five years.
Russia and the US have suspended mutual inspections under New START since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but last fall Moscow refused to allow them to resume, adding to uncertainty about the future of the pact. Russia has also indefinitely postponed a planned round of consultations on the treaty.
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