What is the New Start nuclear agreement that Putin just suspended

Presidents Barack Obama of the United States, left, and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia sign the New START nuclear treaty April 8, 2010 at Prague Castle. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) (Alex Brandon/)

He New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the treaty of nuclear disarmament that the Russian president Vladimir Putin has just been suspended, it is the last bilateral agreement of its kind sealed by the two old Cold War rivals Russia and USA.

“I have to announce that Russia is suspending its participation in the new Start treaty,” Putin said, in a speech in which he reiterated his willingness to continue the invasion of Ukraine. “No one should be under the illusion that global strategic parity can be violated.”

The Russian president declared that Russia had not yet fully withdrawn from the treaty, but rather suspend your participationbut called on the military commanders to be prepared to resume the nuclear weapons tests if the United States does it first.

Inheritance of the “reboot”

The agreement was signed in 2010 in the capital of the Czech Republic, Pragueby the two presidents of the time: the American Barack Obama and the russian Dmitry Medvedev. This was a key element of the “reset” policy of the day, an attempt by the US administration to relaunch relations with the Kremlin.

The pact was renewed for five years in 2021despite the fact that the countries were in a context of maximum mutual distrust, between accusations of electoral interference, espionage and cyber attacks.

Stockpile reduction

Russia's Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launched during exercises conducted by the country's strategic nuclear forces at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome (REUTERS)
Russia’s Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launched during exercises carried out by the country’s strategic nuclear forces at the Plesetsk cosmodrome (REUTERS) (RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY /)

the agreement New START establishes that both nuclear powers can possess, at most, 1,550 tactical nuclear warheads each (close to 30% of the limit set in 2002). It also limits the number of pitchers and of heavy bombers at 800an amount that, however, is still enough to destroy the Earth several times over.

The agreement’s main purpose is to establish a control system which is carried out through mutual inspections of the respective arsenals, a pillar of the disarmament policy called “Trust, but verify”, defended by former US president ronald reagan.

Russia defaults

According to the US, Moscow had not been doing its part by not allowing the routine inspections that have been agreed within the framework of the treaty within its territory. Washington’s concern was generated at the beginning of last January, when the Putin’s reluctance to verify and agreed controls.

Washington's concern was generated at the beginning of last January, when Putin's reluctance to the agreed verifications and controls began to be perceived.  (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/file)
Washington’s concern was generated at the beginning of last January, when Putin’s reluctance to the agreed verifications and controls began to be perceived. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/file) (Kevin Lamarque/)

In view of this, the United States formally carried out a diplomatic complaint which led to a specific accusation of Russia of violating the agreement due to its repeated refusal to authorize inspections on the ground and also for not attending the meeting that was expected to take place on February 1 to discuss matters related to the treaty. With that absence, Moscow deepened American concern as the war in Ukraine continued its course and the Vladimir Putin’s threat to use tactical weapons has not been dispelled.

The disagreements exacerbated direct tensions between the United States and Russia, worsening relations between the two countries over the war launched by the Kremlin against Ukraine.

Include China?

The previous US Administration insisted on participation in the treaty of China, something that Beijing rejected and that at no time did Moscow support. Russia, in turn, has said that in any case it would also be necessary to include France and the United Kingdomthe other two declared nuclear powers of the West and permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Moscow and Washington have a 90% of all nuclear weapons that exist on the planet.

The process of treaty renewal is simple and it only requires that Washington and Moscow approve it through a diplomatic note.

In 2021 this action was executed a few days before the end date of the treaty. However, the United States and its European allies have expressed deep concern in the event that Russia refuses to renegotiate a new agreement on the matter so that it continues in force after the current one expires in three years as agreed.

Western intelligence sources maintain that, as Putin’s announcement today shows, the direction and outcome of the Ukraine war will determine Moscow’s future decisions.

Keep reading:

What is the importance of the new START Treaty between Washington and Moscow

Putin assured that he will maintain the invasion of Russia in Ukraine

Russia suspended its participation in the New Start nuclear disarmament treaty and Putin threatens new atomic tests