Russia is suspending its participation in New START nuclear weapons treaty, Putin says

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a state of the nation address in Moscow, on February 21. (Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia is suspending its participation in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.

Moscow is not withdrawing from the agreement, but is suspending its participation, Putin said in his state of the nation address.

Under the key nuclear arms control treaty, both the United States and Russia are permitted to conduct inspections of each other’s weapons sites, but inspections have been halted since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the New START treaty is still in force after a previous agreement between Moscow and Washington extended it through February 4, 2026. 

According to US officials, Russia has continually refused to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities. 

“Russia is not complying with its obligation under the New START Treaty to facilitate inspection activities on its territory,” a US State Department spokesperson said in January. 

“Russia’s refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control.”

Some context: The New START treaty is the only agreement left regulating the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

The treaty puts limits on the number of deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons that both the US and Russia can have. It was last extended in early 2021 for five years, meaning the two sides will soon need to begin negotiating on another arms control agreement.

A session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission on the treaty was slated to meet in Egypt in late November but was abruptly called off.

The US has blamed Russia for this postponement, with a State Department spokesperson saying the decision was made “unilaterally” by Russia.

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