Putin Announces Russian Withdrawal From New START Nuclear Treaty

Susan Jones | February 21, 2023 | 7:06am EST
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Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address in central Moscow on February 21, 2023. (Photo by PAVEL BEDNYAKOV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address in central Moscow on February 21, 2023. (Photo by PAVEL BEDNYAKOV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - In a two-hour speech to the Russian parliament on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he is suspending Russia's participation in the New START treaty, which limits all U.S. and Russian deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons.

"In this regard, I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty,” Putin said, after accusing the West of starting the war in Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the announcement "deeply unfortunate and irresponsible."

The New START Treaty between the United States and Russia took effect 12 years ago, in February 2011, and the two sides agreed to extend it in 2021 for another five years.

START is an acronym for Strategic Arms Reduction.

The treaty obligates both sides to set limits on strategic offensive arms -- limits that remain in force for the duration of the treaty.

According to the State Department:

"New START 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. It also limits Russia's new long-range nuclear weapons that can reach the United States.

"Extending New START ensures we will have verifiable limits on the mainstay of Russian nuclear weapons that can reach the U.S. homeland for the next five years.

“As of the most recent data exchange on September 1, 2020, the Russian Federation declared 1,447 deployed strategic warheads. The Russian Federation has the capacity to deploy many more than 1,550 warheads on its modernized ICBMs and SLBMs, as well as heavy bombers, but is constrained from doing so by New START."

The New START treaty sets out detailed procedures for implementing and verifying the limits on strategic offensive arms, including inspections of nuclear facilities.

In his speech, Putin also blamed the West for starting the war in Ukraine. He said the West wants to escalate a "local conflict into a global one."

"We aren’t fighting the Ukrainian people,” Putin said. Ukraine “has become hostage of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters, which have effectively occupied the country.”

Secretary of State Blinken told reporters on Tuesday, "We’ll be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does. 

"We’ll, of course, make sure that in any event we are postured appropriately for the security of our own country and that of our allies.

"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.

"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.  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."

Nine countries are known to possess some 12,700 warheads, collectively, as of early-2022, according to arms control groups.

Approximately 90 percent of all nuclear warheads are owned by Russia and the United States; Russia has around 6,000 -- more than any other country, including the U.S., which has around 5,500, according to FAS, the Federation of American Scientists.

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