President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia is suspending its participation in the New START treaty, the only remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that Moscow was suspending its participation in the New START treaty.
- Speaking in his state-of-the-nation address, Mr. Putin also said that Russia should stand ready to resume nuclear weapons tests if the U.S. does so. If this happens, it would end a global ban on nuclear weapons tests in place since Cold War times.
- Explaining his decision to suspend Russia’s obligations under the treaty, Putin accused the U.S. and its NATO allies of openly declaring the goal of Russia’s defeat in Ukraine.
- The name START comes from the original “Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty”, known as START-I. START-I was signed between the US and the erstwhile USSR in 1991, and came into force in 1994.
- START-I capped the numbers of nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that each side could deploy at 6,000 and 1,600 respectively.
- START-I lapsed in 2009 and was replaced first by the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT, also known as the Treaty of Moscow), and then by the New START treaty.
What is the New START?
- New START Treaty is officially known as – “Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms”.
- It was signed by then-President Barack Obama and then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in 2010.
- The treaty entered into force in February 2011, and placed new verifiable limits on intercontinental-range nuclear weapons.
- Under the treaty, the United States and Russia were given seven years to scale back their stockpiles of strategic offensive arms — broadly, nuclear warheads deployed by missiles, planes or submarines that can travel long distances.
- After February 2018, both the countries had to maintain the stockpiles of these arms within the limits fixed by the treaty, for the period the treaty remained in force.
- The US and Russia Federation subsequently agreed to extend the treaty through February 4, 2026.
How is compliance with the treaty ensured?
- Detailed procedures for the implementation and verification of the central limits, and all treaty obligations, are part of the treaty terms.
- The treaty provides for 18 on-site inspections per year for US and Russian inspection teams.
Have the United States and Russia complied with it?
- Both countries met the limits spelled out in the treaty by February 2018 and appear to have remained at or below them since then.
- However, regular inspections mandated by the agreement have not been held for the past three years — initially because of the coronavirus pandemic, and later because relations soured after Russia invaded Ukraine.
What could Putin’s announcement mean?
- As per Russian President, the country is not withdrawing from the treaty entirely. But Moscow will not allow NATO countries to inspect its nuclear arsenal.
- Analysts believe it is entirely symbolic since Russia had not been permitting inspections anyway.
- As per them, the move appears to be aimed at pressuring President Biden and allies.
Why security experts all over the world are worried with this announcement?
- Deterioration of nuclear disarmament efforts —
- This announcement has raised alarm about the deterioration of nuclear disarmament efforts.
- This is at a time when tensions between the United States and Russia have reached a recent peak after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
- Signals that nuclear weapons are an effective form of diplomatic leverage —
- The current announcement might signal to other countries that nuclear weapons are an effective form of diplomatic leverage.
- This largely depends on the posture taken by the USA after this announcement.
- If the United States makes concessions, other countries might get the signal that nuclear weapons hold keys in such cases.