MOSCOW, Feb 21 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday suspended Russia’s participation in the last nuclear arms control treaty with the United States, warning Washington that Russia has put new ground-based strategic nuclear weapons into combat duty.
Russia and the United States still have vast arsenals of nuclear weapons left over from the Cold War, the number of which is currently limited by the New START treaty, which was agreed in 2010 and expires in 2026.
“Today I am forced to announce that Russia is ceasing participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,” Putin told his country’s political and military elite.
The Russian leader said some in Washington were considering resuming nuclear weapons testing and that Russia’s Defense Ministry and nuclear agency should be ready for a Russian nuclear test if necessary.
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“Of course, we won’t do this first. But if the US conducts tests, we will. No one should have dangerous illusions that they can destroy the global strategic balance.”
“A week ago, I signed an order putting new ground-based strategic systems on combat duty. Are they going to poke their noses in there too, or what? They think everything’s so simple? What, we’re going? Just let them in?”
The New START treaty allowed both sides to freeze 1,550 warheads. Both parties met midterm limits by 2018.
Putin announced the move during his annual state of the nation address, in which he vowed to continue Russia’s years-long war in Ukraine and accused the US-led NATO alliance of fanning the flames of the conflict in bad faith. Moscow can be defeated in a global conflict.
Putin, speaking nearly a year to the day since ordering the invasion that sparked the biggest conflict with the West since the depths of the Cold War, said Russia would “continue to resolve” the tasks it faces in Ukraine.
Flanked by four Russian tricolor flags, Putin said Russia was turning to Asia after the West slapped the toughest economic sanctions in modern history.
Guy Falconbridge Report; Editing by Andrew Osborne, Simon Cameron-Moore and Nick MacPhee
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