Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would be suspending its participation in the New START treaty with the United States that limits the two sides’ strategic nuclear arsenals.
It is the last remaining arms control agreement between Washington and Moscow.
The announcement capped off Putin’s state of the nation address to Russian lawmakers. During the speech, he raged against the West with many of the same claims he has previously used to justify the war in Ukraine.
It also comes a day after President Biden visited Kyiv, Ukraine in a major sign of unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine during the war.
“They want to inflict a strategic defeat on us and claim our nuclear facilities,” the Russian president said during a speech characterized by grievances against the west.
“In this regard, I am forced to state that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty.”
The treaty provides for limits on the deployed strategic nuclear arsenals of the world’s two largest nuclear powers, capping strategic nuclear assets at 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed missiles.
Between the U.S. and Russia, the two nations hold nearly 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads – enough to destroy the planet many times over.
The treaty also provides for joint monitoring of each side’s deployed nuclear arsenals, as well as coordination through a bilateral consultative commission.
Putin stressed that Russia was not withdrawing from the treaty but the suspension further imperils the last remaining pillar of arms control between the United States and Russia.
Experts say that this is a very big deal. While the suspension of the treaty is not equal to withdrawal, in reality, it could become really close over time.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken called the decision “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible.” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called on Putin to reconsider.
The U.S. earlier this year accused Russia of violating the terms of the New START pact by refusing to allow on-site inspections.
The New START treaty, which entered into force in 2011 and had been extended through February 2026, seeks to limit the long-range nuclear weapons programs of the U.S. and Russia.
The two countries agreed in March 2020 to suspend inspections due to the Covid pandemic. But when the U.S. sought to resume them last August, Russia rebuffed the efforts.