Feb 21, 2023 - World

Putin: Russia to suspend participation in last remaining nuclear treaty with U.S.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address at the Gostiny Dvor conference centre in central Moscow. Photo: Dmitry Astakhov/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Monday that Russia was suspending its participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty — the last remaining arms control agreement between Washington and Moscow.

The big picture: The announcement capped off Putin's state of the nation address to Russian lawmakers in which he raged against the West with many of the same claims he has previously used to justify the war in Ukraine.

Catch up quick: The U.S. earlier this year accused Russia of violating the terms of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) 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-19 pandemic. But when the U.S. sought to resume them last August, Russia rebuffed the efforts, the State Department said.

What they're saying: "I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty," Putin said at the end of his major speech on Monday, just three days ahead of one year anniversary of the war in Ukraine.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken called the decision "deeply unfortunate and irresponsible."

  • NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called on Putin to reconsider. "With today's decision on New START, the whole arms control architecture has been dismantled," he said.

During his state of the nation address, Putin also railed against Western nations with his own version of history, relying on his oft-used claim that Russia was forced to invade Ukraine to defend itself against Western actions — a narrative the West and Ukraine have repeatedly rejected.

  • Ukraine "has become hostage of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters, which have effectively occupied the country," Putin said, adding that the West has "effectively occupied this country in the political, military and economic sense."
  • "They intend to transform a local conflict into a phase of global confrontation. This is exactly how we understand it all and we will react accordingly because in this case, we are talking about the existence of our country," he said.
  • “It’s they who have started the war. And we are using force to end it."

Putin also said Western sanctions put in place in response to the invasion were meant to "make the people suffer ... but their calculation did not materialize."

  • "The Russian economy and the management turned out to be much stronger than they thought," he said.

Between the lines: The Kremlin postponed last year's address over Putin's "work schedule," though many linked the decision to a series of setbacks Russian forces faced on the ground in Ukraine.

What to watch: Biden, who is in Poland, is scheduled to give his own address on the war from Warsaw later Tuesday.

  • Standing next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Monday, Biden declared "Putin's war of conquest is failing."
  • "Russia’s aim was to wipe Ukraine off the map," Biden said. “He’s just been plain wrong."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Blinken and Stoltenberg's comments.

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