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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that he is suspending Moscow’s participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the United States.
Russia will halt its participation in the New START Treaty, Putin announced in a lengthy speech to his country’s parliament, which was dominated by anti-Western rhetoric and featured no sign that he plans to change course on Ukraine where he has waged all-out war for the last year.
“I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,” Putin said, days before the first anniversary of the full-scale Ukraine invasion.
The U.S. recently raised concerns that Russia is not complying with provisions of the nuclear treaty, designed to place limits on strategic offensive arms.
The agreement — formally called the treaty between the U.S. and Russia on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms — originally entered into force in 2011, and includes limitations on systems such as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and nuclear warheads on deployed ICBMs. The deal also includes processes for verification.
Earlier this month, NATO called on the Kremlin to stick to its commitments.
“NATO Allies agree the New START Treaty contributes to international stability by constraining Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear forces,” allies said in a statement.
“Russia’s refusal to convene a session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) within the treaty-established timeframe, and to facilitate U.S. inspection activities on its territory since August 2022 prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the Treaty,” the allies said.
“We call on Russia,” the allies added, “to fulfil its obligations.”
Condemnation from Western allies was swift. On Tuesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he regrets Russia’s decision.
“Over the last years, Russia has violated and walked away from key arms control agreements,” he said at a press conference.
“With today’s decision on New START, the whole arms control architecture has been dismantled,” the NATO chief added. “I strongly encourage Russia to reconsider its decision and to respect existing agreements.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also bashed Putin’s decision, calling it “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible.”
As a result, the U.S. will “be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does,” Blinken told reporters in Athens on Tuesday. “We’ll of course make sure that, in any event, we are postured appropriately for the security of our country and our allies.”
Other than the announcement that Russia would quit its “participation” in the nuclear arms treaty, pundits agreed Putin’s speech contained no big revelations, nor a new vision, but instead featured an entrenching of the status quo.
“The main point of his address as I understood it is normalization. Normalization of war. The normalization of repression,” said political analyst Kirill Rogov.
Those familiar with Putin’s speeches will have recognized his combining of sweeping anti-Western statements, with digressions into domestic details such as ecotourism and landfills, and promises of social payouts.
But with the war on Ukraine entering its second year, Putin seemed more intractable in those ideas than ever. “Putin is not really saying anything new, but all these old ideas are being put forward in a much more radical form,” wrote Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the R Politik political analysis firm.
Throughout his speech, a common thread was the need for unity at home. According to Putin, a “vast majority of citizens” supported the war against Ukraine, and he called them “real patriots.”
Putin also made a direct appeal to the Russian elite with business interests in the West, some of whom were sitting in the audience, to side “with your fatherland” in defiance of personal sanctions.
“Everyone must understand that the sources of their prosperity and their future is here, in their home country. Humiliating yourself by begging for your money [from the West] is pointless,” he said.
Pro-Kremlin analyst Sergei Markov wrote on his Telegram channel that Putin’s speech had in fact provided Russians with an answer to the main question on their minds.
“When will this end, this thing which is called the special military operation? The answer lies in the entire speech: It is not close to ending. This is for the long haul. This is our new life. Learn to live with it.’”
Matt Berg contributed reporting.
This article has been updated.