Both houses of Russia’s parliament on Wednesday endorsed President Vladimir Putin’s suspension of Moscow’s participation in the 2010 New START nuclear arms treaty with the United States, casting it as a rebuke to the U.S.-led Western alliance arming Ukraine in its bid to fend off Russia’s year-long invasion.
Putin announced suspension of Russia’s involvement in the last remaining nuclear arms treaty with the U.S. during his state-of-the-nation speech on Tuesday. The pact, set to expire in 2026, limits each country to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads.
Putin said Russia can’t accept U.S. inspections of its nuclear sites under the pact while Washington and its NATO allies have called for Russia’s defeat in Ukraine. But the Russian Foreign Ministry said the country would respect the caps on nuclear weapons set under the treaty.
U.S. President Joe Biden, speaking in Warsaw where he was meeting with the leaders of the eastern flank of NATO countries closest to Russia, called Putin’s suspension of the nuclear pact a “big mistake.”
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council that is chaired by Putin, said Wednesday that the suspension of Russia’s participation in the pact signaled to the U.S. that Moscow is ready to use nuclear weapons to protect itself.
“If the U.S. wants Russia’s defeat, we have the right to defend ourselves with any weapons, including nuclear,” Medvedev said on his messaging app channel. “Let the U.S. elites who have lost touch with reality think about what they got. If the U.S. wants Russia to be defeated, we are standing on the verge of a global conflict.”
Leonid Slutsky, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house, the State Duma, emphasized that the suspension is “reversible and can be reviewed if our Western opponents come back to reason and realize their responsibility for destroying the global security system.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said it would be up to Putin to decide whether Moscow could return to the pact. “The president will determine if and when the conditions for reviewing or clarifying [Tuesday’s] decision emerge,” he told reporters.
The diplomat noted that Russia’s satellite surveillance capability will allow it to keep track of U.S. nuclear forces even without exchanges of data and inspections that were envisaged by the treaty.