In an early morning address, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country is withdrawing from the New START nuclear treaty with the United States. Shortly before President Joe Biden is due to meet with Polish leader Andrzej Duda, the Kremlin boss said that his country is “putting a hold” on the last remaining nuclear treaty between the two nations.
Putin informed members of parliament that the agreement limiting the number of strategic nuclear warheads that either country could deploy was effectively dead in the water. He said, “In this regard, I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty.”
He said that Western nations were involved in new testing; therefore, Russia should also be prepared to respond in kind and be ready to test Russian nuclear weapons if necessary. “Of course, we will not do this first. But if the United States conducts tests, then we will. No one should have dangerous illusions that global strategic parity can be destroyed.” He continued:
“A week ago, I signed a decree on putting new ground-based strategic systems on combat duty. Are they going to stick their nose in there too, or what? And they think that everything is so simple? What, are we going to let them in there just like that?”
What Is the New START Treaty?
Signed in Prague in 2010, this rolling agreement sought to limit the stockpiles of the US and Russia regarding the amount of long-range, intercontinental nuclear weapons. It was renewed in 2021 under President Biden and outlined the limits and capabilities of a nuclear response. These limits include (as per the government fact sheet):
- 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments;
- 1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments (each such heavy bomber is counted as one warhead toward this limit);
- 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
With Russia putting a hold on its participation, it is expected that the Kremlin will ramp up its arsenal and increase testing.
Putin Setting the Spin
The decision was part of President Putin’s long-delayed State of the Nation address. Much like the American version, it is an opportunity for the leader to tout victories, set narratives, and highlight political and national goals going forward.
“We aren’t fighting the Ukrainian people,” Putin began. He insisted that Ukraine “has become hostage of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters, which have effectively occupied the country.” “Western elites aren’t trying to conceal their goals, to inflict a ‘strategic defeat’ to Russia… They intend to transform the local conflict into a global confrontation,” he accused, adding that he is prepared to provide a robust response as a “matter of our country’s existence.”
Putin charged western nations with launching “aggressive information attacks” at Russian culture, religion and values, saying they have done so because “it is impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield.”
In response to the increased economic sanctions, Putin pooh-poohed the idea that they are having a lasting impact, insisting they haven’t “achieved anything and will not achieve anything.”
No Quid Pro Quo?
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan noted that President Biden would not engage in “some kind of head-to-head” with Putin and that this “is not a rhetorical contest with anyone else.” But will the US president get that particular memo?
As Biden prepares to meet with President Duma, it seems unlikely that he will not address the nuclear elephant in the room, creating a back-and-forth that is far removed from what one might term constructive dialogue. It seems a global game of one-upmanship is in place that may prove too tempting to back away from for leaders all too keen to bolster their domestic reputations.
Editor’s Note: President Biden is due to deliver his own address later this morning, we will update as it happens.
All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Liberty Nation.
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