Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared that he is withdrawing Moscow’s participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which is the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the United States. The two nations had previously agreed to extend the treaty through February 4, 2026.
New START limits all Russian deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons, including every Russian nuclear warhead that is loaded onto an intercontinental-range ballistic missile that can reach the United States in approximately 30 minutes. It also limits the deployed Avangard and the under development Sarmat, the two most operationally available of the Russian Federation’s new long-range nuclear weapons that can reach the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Putin’s announcement is “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible”.
“When the administration started, we extended New START because it was clearly in the security interests of our country and actually in the security interests of Russia,” said Blinken. “And that only underscores what an irresponsible action this is.”
During his address, Putin said that Russia needs to be ready to test nuclear weapons if the U.S. does so first. However, Putin ruled out Russia making a first nuclear strike.
Blinken said the U.S. remains ready to talk about strategic arms limitations at any time with Russia irrespective of anything else going on in the world or in U.S. Russia relations. “I think it matters that we continue to act responsibly in this area. It’s also something the rest of the world expects of us. But this decision, as I said, is both really unfortunate and very irresponsible, but we’ll be watching it closely.”
The New START Treaty first entered into force on February 5, 2011. Under the treaty, the United States and the Russian Federation had seven years to meet the treaty’s central limits on strategic offensive arms (by February 5, 2018) and are then obligated to maintain those limits for as long as the treaty remains in force.
Both the United States and the Russian Federation met the central limits of the New START Treaty by February 5, 2018, and have stayed at or below them ever since. Those limits are:
- 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments;
- 1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments (each such heavy bomber is counted as one warhead toward this limit);
- 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
“We’ll be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does,” Blinken said on Tuesday, moments after Putin’s state of the nation address, in which he also blamed the West for the war in Ukraine. “We’ll, of course, make sure that in any event we are postured appropriately for the security of our own country and that of our allies,” the Secretary of State confirmed.