Russian President Vladimir Putin announced yesterday that Russia is suspending its participation in the New START Treaty – “the last remaining nuclear arms control pact with the United States.” What would Putin do? Is this saber rattling, escalation of nuclear threat, or something worse?
No one can really answer this question except President Putin himself.
But this much we do know: the famous statement made by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, jointly in 1985 that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” was ratified by the leaders of U.S., Russia, China, France and U.K. last year (in January 2022).
And the New START Treaty took effect in 2011 (expires in 2026) allows each country to verify and inspect other’s nuclear arsenals. So the Reagan/Gorbachev statement can live in earnest. But due to the Covid pandemic the on-site inspection of the Treaty has been halted by mutual agreement.
So what Putin said in essence is that Russia will not allow the US to resume its on-site inspection, given the US support of its opponent, Ukraine. The statement should not be interpreted as an escalation on the Russian nuclear arsenals nor the Russia is withdrawing from the Treaty.
Apparently, “suspension” is a term of art in diplomacy. it provides the participants mechanism to resume later after the suspension. And Putin is using this opportunity to send a message of non-concur to the US.
Do you think the US and Russia are moving closer to the brink?