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U.N. calls for nuclear arms control amid Putin’s nuclear warnings

Stephane Dujarric, United Nations spokesman said on Tuesday that the full nuclear arms control program “New START” should be resumed as Russia suspends participation in the treaty.

“A world without nuclear arms control is a far more dangerous, unstable one, with potentially catastrophic consequences. Every effort should be taken to avoid this outcome, including an immediate return to dialogue,” said Stephane Dujarric.

The statement followed Kremlin’s most recent decisions regarding putting new strategic weapons on “combat duty”. Russian strongman Putin declared on Tuesday that Moscow was suspending participation in the New START treaty, its last major arms control treaty with Washington, and that it would resume nuclear tests if the U.S. does the same.

During his speech, Putin noted that before Russia returns to discussions on the New START, it must consider looking at “the nuclear arsenals of France and Britain”.

However, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced simultaneously that Moscow intended to continue abiding by the restrictions outlined in the treaty on the number of warheads it could have deployed.

In February of this year, Russia refused the U.S. request to inspect its nuclear arsenal. Some vessels, including submarines, capable of carrying missiles with nuclear warheads have not been inspected since 2019.

BREAKING: President Vladimir Putin of Russia just announced in a state of the nation address that Moscow is “suspending” its participation in the New START nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the United States. It is the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the…

— Simon Ateba (@simonateba) February 21, 2023
New START treaty

The New START treaty caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the countries can deploy. It has been signed in 2010 by then-U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev. Due to expire in 2026, it allows each country to physically check the other’s nuclear arsenal, although tensions over Ukraine had already brought inspections to a halt. It was supposed to halve the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers.

Russia and the United States together hold 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads. The New START treaty limited each side to 1,550 warheads on deployed missile launchers and heavy bombers. Both sides met the central limits by 2018.

‘Deeply unfortunate and irresponsible’

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Putin’s move “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible”. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it made the world a more dangerous place and urged Putin to reconsider.

The United States is concerned Beijing may be considering supplying weapons to Russia, a step that might transform the war into a confrontation between Russia and China on the one side and Ukraine and NATO on the other.

However, top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi, who visited Moscow on Tuesday, has dismissed these concerns and cautioned against any nuclear escalation, while reaffirming a new, wide-ranging alliance with Russia.

"We are going to do as we please"

President Vladimir Putin says Russia will suspend its observation of the New START nuclear weapons treaty

— Bloomberg (@business) February 21, 2023

Putin, who has over the past year repeatedly hinted that Russia could use a nuclear weapon if threatened, was in effect saying that he could dismantle the architecture of nuclear arms control unless the West backs off in Ukraine. Putin also claimed the conflict had been forced on Russia, particularly by NATO’s eastward expansion since the Cold War.

Kyiv and Western leaders such as U.S. President Joe Biden, who visited the Ukrainian capital on Monday, reject that narrative as an unfounded pretext for a land grab and say Putin must be made to lose his gamble on invasion.

Since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces have suffered three major battlefield reverses but still control around a fifth of Ukraine. Tens of thousands of Russian invaders and Ukraine’s defenders have been killed and Russia has committed multiple atrocities against the civilian population in the war-torn country.

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