On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin of Russia made a startling announcement that his country will withdraw from a crucial nuclear treaty, thus escalating tensions with the United States at a time when President Joe Biden was visiting the region to reaffirm his support for Ukraine. Putin’s declaration came soon after Biden’s unprecedented and historic trip to Kyiv, where he was scheduled to address the ongoing conflict in Ukraine from Poland, nearly one year after the war began.
In his two-hour speech before the Russian Parliament, Putin revealed that he was suspending Moscow’s involvement in New START, a significant strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty signed between the United States and Russia in 2010 and extended in 2021 for another five years. Putin cited the US and NATO as the primary reasons for Russia’s decision to pull out of the treaty, though he did not elaborate further. “In this regard, I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty,” he stated.
New START is the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the US and Russia, limiting each side to 1,550 long-range nuclear warheads. However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has expressed his dismay, stating, “Over the last few years, Russia has violated and walked away from key arms control agreements. With today’s decision on New START, the entire arms control architecture has been dismantled.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also condemned Putin’s move, labeling it as “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible.” He added that the US will keep a close eye on Russia’s actions in the coming days.
Putin once again pointed fingers at the West for instigating the war and accused the US and its European allies of seeking “limitless power.” He also criticized Ukraine’s allies, accusing them of playing a “dirty game.” Putin went on to claim that NATO members were considering supplying Ukraine with nuclear weapons, which they are not. He also mentioned the numerous US military bases worldwide, which he views as a provocation.
Putin also spoke about Russia’s economic situation, saying that Western economic sanctions have not had any impact. He claimed that Russian farmers have just had a record grain harvest, though there have been accusations that Russia has stolen Ukraine’s grain over the past year. Putin also expressed his intent to strengthen Russia’s economic and diplomatic ties with other countries in the Middle East, such as India and Iran.
The majority of Putin’s speech was dedicated to domestic policies, particularly infrastructure spending and financial reforms. He also praised Russian soldiers and emphasized that he would “systematically” continue with the Ukraine invasion he ordered a year ago. Putin, however, did not reveal any new military objectives linked to Ukraine. He made it clear that Russia would not initiate a first nuclear strike on Ukraine and that Russia would only conduct nuclear tests if the US did so first.
Meanwhile, Biden is scheduled to address the conflict in Ukraine from Warsaw, Poland, the day after his unscheduled visit to Ukraine, where he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and reiterated the United States’ long-term commitment to supplying aid and weapons to Ukraine.
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