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HomeNewsNew Start Treaty: Risks of Russia's Suspension

New Start Treaty: Risks of Russia’s Suspension

New Start Treaty: Risks of Russia’s Suspension

President Vladimir Putin announced the suspension of Russia’s participation in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, also known as New Start, in a speech preceding the upcoming anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Putin stated, “They intend to defeat us strategically and seize our nuclear facilities.” In light of this, I am compelled to announce that Russia is suspending its participation in the treaty on strategic offensive arms.

However, the foreign ministry later stated that Moscow intends to continue abiding by the treaty’s restrictions on the number of ready warheads.

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The ministry stated in a statement that these decisions were made to “maintain a sufficient degree of predictability and stability in the nuclear missile sphere.”

What is New Start?

The New Start treaty, signed in 2010 by then-US president Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia can deploy. The United States and Russia possess 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

In this context, “deploy” means immediately usable, as opposed to being stored. Weapons that are stored are “not deployed.” According to an EU parliament-written explanation of the treaty, warheads are considered deployed if they are loaded onto a deployed missile.

The agreement stipulates that Moscow and Washington will deploy no more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads and 700 long-range missiles and bombers. Each side is permitted up to 18 annual inspections of strategic nuclear weapons sites to ensure the other has not violated the treaty’s limitations.

The treaty entered into force in 2011 and was extended by five years in 2021 after Joe Biden became president.

The agreement’s inspections were suspended in March 2020 due to the Covid pandemic. Russia postponed talks between Moscow and Washington on the resumption of inspections that were scheduled to take place in Egypt in November of last year. Neither party has established a new date.

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What are the consequences of being suspended?

While the foreign ministry has stated that it will continue to adhere to the treaty’s restrictions, the US may find it more difficult to monitor compliance if the treaty is suspended.

Russia has already suspended participation in a bilateral consultative commission and mutual inspections of nuclear weapons sites. According to experts, if Putin went further and stopped routine reporting and data exchange on nuclear weapon movements and other related developments, it would be a devastating blow.

In an interview with the Washington Post, John Erath, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, described the move as “entirely symbolic.”

He believes Putin announced to pressure Biden into approaching Russia about ending the war “so that Russia could dictate the terms under which that would occur.”

Andrey Baklitskiy, a senior researcher at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research’s weapons of mass destruction and other strategic weapons program, told the Guardian that the suspension was “a big deal; suspension of the treaty is not the same as withdrawal, but in reality, it could become very close over time.”

Now, “Russia will likely adhere to the New Start treaty limits,” he said, but “it will be more difficult for the United States to verify compliance using only national technical means.” I anticipate that the United States will also suspend its obligations.

“A silver lining is that the Russian decision is political and can be easily reversed if global political relations change,” he continued. Also, since the treaty already exists, returning to implementation would be simple. The issue, of course, is that there is no imminent change in political relations.”