Vladimir Putin suspends New START participation in state of nation address

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address before the Federal Assembly at Moscow's Gostiny Dvor conference centre in Russia on February 21, 2023. Photo by Kremlin Pool/UPI
1 of 5 | Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address before the Federal Assembly at Moscow's Gostiny Dvor conference centre in Russia on February 21, 2023. Photo by Kremlin Pool/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 21 (UPI) -- President Vladimir Putin announced Monday in his state of the nation address that Russia would halt participation in the New START nuclear reduction treaty with the United States, while accusing Washington and its allies of escalating the war in Ukraine.

Putin said in Moscow that Russia was not fully withdrawing from the treaty -- the last remaining arms control agreement it had with the United States -- but was suspending its participation in the pact, which limits the number of intercontinental-range nuclear weapons the nations could hold.


"No one should be under the illusion that global strategic parity can be violated," Putin said.

Russia and the United States had signed a five-year extension of the treaty in 2021, but the United States has not conducted inspections of Russia's nuclear armament since they were suspended a year prior due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On-site inspections were supposed to resume in August but the Kremlin halted them again, citing U.S. support for Ukraine, before tabling negotiations on the treaty in November.


Early this month, State Department officials said Russia was not complying with its obligations under the treaty.

The Kremlin's foreign ministry issued a lengthy statement justifying Putin's decision by blaming the United States for reneging on its responsibilities under the treaty, escalating the conflict in Ukraine and pursuing a policy aimed at undermining Russia's national security.

"In such an environment, it is no longer possible to do business with the United States and the West as a whole -- both in principle and in the field of arms control, which is inseparable form geopolitical and military-strategic realities," it said.

Russia's decision is reversible, it said, but only if the United States shows "political will, make good faith efforts to de-escalate and create conditions for the full resumption of the treaty and accordingly fully ensure its viability."

Though the treaty is suspended, the ministry said Russia will not exceed its limit of deployable nuclear weapons and will exchange notifications with the United States on intercontinental ballistic missile launches.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, Russia and the United States together possess 90% of the world's entire nuclear arsenal, with Moscow in possession of nearly 6,000 though it has been increasing its cache and Washington owning a little more than 5,420 as it seeks to decrease its stockpile.


Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that Russia's decision "is deeply unfortunate and irresponsible" and that they are "watching carefully to see what Russia does."

"Of course, we remain ready to talk about strategic arms limitations at any time with Russia irrespective of anything else going on in the world or in our relationship," he said.

Giving his speech in front of Russia's Federal Assembly, Putin described Ukraine as "historically Russian lands," accusing Ukraine's allies in the West of looking to take the Donbas -- which comprises the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine -- away from the people.

"The elite of the West does not conceal their ambitions, which is to strategically defeat Russia," Putin said in his speech. "What does that mean? It means to finish yourself once and for all."

"They do that by making local conflicts into much wider and bigger ones."

Putin repeated claims that Russia was forced into the invasion of Ukraine to defend its own country and that the Kremlin did "everything possible" to prevent it. He blamed the West for turning away from "terrorist activities" in eastern Ukraine against its supporters.

"I want to repeat: It was they who unleashed the war," Putin said. "And we used and continue to use force to stop it."


The Russian leader made his address one day after U.S. President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volomydyr Zelensky and pledge additional support for Ukraine.

During the speech, Putin accused the Ukrainian government of being under the protection of "Western masters" and not serving the interest of its citizens.

"The Kyiv regime and their Western masters have completely taken over the economy of the country," Putin said. "They have destroyed the Ukrainian industry and economy. They're responsible for the escalation of the situation in Ukraine ... for the huge numbers of casualties."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg flatly rejected Putin's characterization of the conflict during a press conference later Tuesday in which he said it was the Russian president "who started this imperial war of conquest."

"Nobody is attacking Russia. Russia is the aggressor. Ukraine is the victim of aggression," he said during a press conference from NATO headquarters in Brussels with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

The war began Feb. 24 when Kremlin forces invaded Ukraine with the support of Belarus, and Stoltenberg said Putin made clear during his speech Tuesday that he is preparing to further escalating conflict.


With Russia's suspension of New START, the entire International arms control architecture "has been dismantled," he said, which, when combined with the cessation of previous agreements, "makes the world more dangerous."

The European Union also issued a statement saying it "deplores" Putin's decision to suspend the pact, which the 27-nation bloc regards as "a crucial contribution" to its international security.

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