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russian invasion

Putin speech: Russia pulling back from nuclear treaty with US

Delivering a state-of-the-nation address, Putin accused the West of being “completely” responsible for the conflict in Ukraine.

LAST UPDATE | 21 Feb 2023

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR has declared that Russia is suspending its participation in the New Start treaty — the last remaining nuclear arms control pact with the US — sharply upping the ante amid tensions with Washington over the fighting in Ukraine.

Speaking in his state-of-the-nation address this morning, he also said Russia should be ready to resume nuclear weapons tests if the US does so, a move that would end a global ban on nuclear weapons tests in place since the end of the Cold War.

Explaining his decision to suspend Russia’s obligations under the 2010 New Start treaty, Putin accused the US and its Nato allies of openly declaring the goal of Moscow’s defeat in Ukraine.

“It is not withdrawing from the treaty, but is suspending its participation,” he said to applause from political elites in the audience,” he said.

“No one should be under the illusion that global strategic parity can be violated.”

New START, signed by then-President Barack Obama in 2010 when relations were warmer, restricted Russia and the United States to a maximum of 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads each, a reduction of nearly 30% from the previous limit set in 2002.

The agreement was ratified in 2011. US President Joe Biden, shortly after taking office, extended New START by five years until 2026, giving time to negotiate while preserving what the Democratic administration sees as an important existing treaty.

“They want to inflict a ‘strategic defeat’ on us and try to get to our nuclear facilities at the same time,” he said, declaring his decision to suspend Russia’s participation in the treaty.

He emphasised, however, that Moscow was not withdrawing from the pact altogether. Hours after his address, the Foreign Ministry said the country will respect the caps on nuclear weapons set under the treaty.

Russia also will continue to exchange information about test launches of ballistic missiles under earlier agreements with the US, the ministry said.

4c4f5f4c28e9462ab25f8451c853a0e4 Putin delivering the speech in Moscow PA PA

Noting that the decision to suspend Russia’s participation in New Start could be reversed, the Foreign Ministry urged the US to de-escalate tensions and create a proper environment for the treaty’s implementation.

The treaty envisages caps on the number of nuclear weapons and broad inspections of nuclear sites, but Putin said such inspections do not make sense after the US and its allies declared the goal of dealing Moscow a military defeat in Ukraine and helped the Ukrainian military mount strikes on Russian nuclear facilities.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken condemned Putin’s move as “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible”, adding: “We’ll be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does.

“We remain ready to talk about strategic arms limitations at any time with Russia irrespective of anything else going on in the world or in our relationship.

“I think it matters that we continue to act responsibly in this area. It’s also something the rest of the world expects of us.”

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg also voiced regret about Putin’s move, saying “full arms control architecture has been dismantled”.

“I strongly encourage Russia to reconsider its decision and respect existing agreements,” he told reporters.

Putin argued that while the US has pushed for the resumption of inspections of Russian nuclear facilities under the treaty, Nato allies had helped Ukraine mount drone attacks on Russian air bases hosting nuclear-capable strategic bombers.

The Russian leader today mocked Nato’s statement urging Moscow to allow the resumption of the US inspections of Russian nuclear weapons sites as “some kind of theatre of the absurd”.

“The drones used for it were equipped and modernised with Nato’s expert assistance,” Putin said. “And now they want to inspect our defence facilities? In the conditions of today’s confrontation, it sounds like sheer nonsense.”

He described the US push for access to Russian nuclear sites as “the height of hypocrisy and cynicism”.

“They want to inflict a ‘strategic defeat’ on us and at the same time they keep trying to get to our nuclear facilities,” he said.

He noted he signed an order a week ago to deploy new land-based strategic missiles and asked: “Are they also going to poke their noses there?”

The Russian leader also alleged that a Nato statement on New Start raised the issue of the nuclear weapons of Britain and France, which are part of the alliance’s nuclear capability but are not included in the US-Russian pact.

“They are also aimed against us. They are aimed against Russia,” Putin said of the European weapons.

“Before we return to discussing the issue, we need to understand what are the aspirations of Nato members Britain and France and how we take it into account, their strategic arsenals that are part of the alliance’s combined strike potential.”

Meanwhile, Biden has met with Polish President Andrzej Duda and delivered an address from the gardens of Warsaw’s Royal Castle, where vowed to stand by Ukraine.

Tomorrow, he will consult with Duda and other leaders of the Bucharest Nine, a group of Nato’s easternmost members.

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