President Vladimir Putin has announced the suspension of Russia’s participation in the last remaining nuclear arms agreement between Russia and the United States.
Putin made the declaration during a one-hour and 45-minute State of the Union address, which was delivered to Russia’s Federal Assembly just days before the one-year anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
“I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty,” he said, while stressing that Moscow is not withdrawing entirely from the agreement.
Putin added that Washington officials are considering resuming unclear testing, and stated Russia’s defense ministry should be ready to test nuclear weapons again in response, the Telegraph reported.
The New START Treaty, which was signed in 2010 and took effect in 2011, capped the number of nuclear warheads Russia and the U.S. could deploy, giving both countries seven years to meet limits on strategic offensive arms. After the seventh year, both nations would be obligated to maintain those limits for as long as the treaty is in effect, according to the U.S. State Department.
The treaty — which was extended in 2021 for five years — “limits all Russian deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons, including every Russian nuclear warhead that is loaded onto an intercontinental-range ballistic missile that can reach the United States in approximately 30 minutes,” the State Department says on it’s website.
In remarks delivered following Putin’s announcement, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Russia’s suspension of the treaty “unfortunate and irresponsible,” adding that the U.S. would be watching to see how Moscow actually proceeds.
“When the administration started, we extended New START because it was clearly in the security interests of our country and actually in the security interests of Russia. And that only underscores what an irresponsible action this is,” Blinken said. “But of course, 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.”
Russia holds the world’s largest nuclear stockpile, with an estimated 5,977 stockpiled and retired nuclear warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists. The U.S. ranks second with 5,428.
For comparison, the third largest nuclear power is China, which has only about 350 nuclear warheads.
Fears of nuclear war have escalated since the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, with the Russian military moving nuclear-capable bombers closer to Europe, Putin stating that a nuclear option is on the table, and the World Health Organization (WHO) recently updating its list of medicines to stockpile for nuclear emergencies.