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Moscow to observe nuclear limits despite pulling out of treaty as tensions rise

By JONATHAN POWELL | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-02-23 10:07
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Russia's foreign ministry has said the country will still observe limits imposed by the New START nuclear weapons treaty, shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Moscow was suspending participation in the deal, which commits Russia and the United States to reducing their nuclear stockpiles.

New START is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the US and Russia. It was signed on April 8,2010 in Prague, and after ratification entered into force on Feb 5, 2011.

The treaty, which is effective until 2026, seeks to reduce the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers by half, limit warheads deployed, and establish an inspection and verification regime.

Putin announced his decision to withdraw from the agreement during a speech to both houses of the Russian Parliament on Tuesday. He emphasized this was a "suspension "of participation in the deal, and not a "termination".

Later, news agencies cited a statement issued by Russia's foreign ministry, which said the country "intends to adhere to a responsible approach and will continue to strictly comply with the quantitative restrictions on strategic offensive arms stipulated by it (New START) within the life cycle of the treaty".

The ministry added that Putin's decision came in response to the "destructive actions" of the US, which it said had violated the treaty with its "extreme hostility" and "overt course of malicious escalation" of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

It said the US, by supporting Ukraine financially and militarily, has created a "fundamentally different security environment" for Russia.

"There is every reason to state that US policy is aimed at undermining Russia's national security, which directly contradicts the fundamental principles and understandings enshrined in the preamble of the treaty," the ministry added.

The US had "renamed" strategic offensive weapons so they no longer fall under treaty definitions or "declared them converted without giving the Russian side the chance to reliably verify" the results, said the statement.

The US, NATO, and other nuclear powers Britain and France have criticized Putin's decision, reported the Reuters news agency.

Russia would be willing to return to the deal if Washington's policy toward Moscow changed, said the foreign ministry. "The decision to suspend participation in New START can be reversed," it said. "To do this, Washington must show the political will and make good-faith efforts for general de-escalation.

"We are convinced that the potential of the treaty in terms of its contribution to strengthening international security and strategic stability is far from exhausted."

Russia suspended US inspections of its military sites under the treaty in August, reported the Agence France-Presse news service. Moscow said this was in response to US obstruction of inspections by Russia.

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