With Russia-Ukraine war moving into second year, and entire Europe as well as the United States giving its full support to Ukraine, Russia declared that it was suspending all its participation in the New START treaty — the last remaining nuclear arms control pact with the United States.
Addressing the nation on February 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russia was suspending its participation in the New START. Explaining further, he said that the fact that the US wants to inspect Russia’s military facilities — a requirement under the treaty — while at the same time saying openly that its goal is Russia’s strategic defeat, was the “theatre of the absurd”.
He alleged that the US want to “inflict a ‘strategic defeat’ on us and try to get to our nuclear facilities at the same time.”
Reacting strongly against Putin’s declaration, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken deplored the move as “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible”. Pointing out that US stood for the security of its people and that of its allies, he said that they still remained 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.
NATO Secretary-GeneralJens Stoltenberg said that that full arms control architecture has been dismantled with the decision. He asked Russia reconsider its decision and respect existing agreements.
The name START comes from the original “Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty”, known as START-I, signed between the erstwhile USSR and the US in 1991, and came into force in 1994. START-I capped the numbers of nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that each side could deploy at 6,000 and 1,600 respectively. It lapsed in 2009, and the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT, also known as the Treaty of Moscow) replaced it. Then came the New START treaty.
The New START treaty, signed in 2010 by US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. The agreement also envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance. The treaty was to expire in February 2021. however, the two countries agreed to extend it for another five years.
NEW START LIMITATIONS
As per the US Department of State website, 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.