After yesterday’s announcement in which Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin revealed his country would suspend participation in the New START treaty with the U.S., the Russian Federation Council clarified this would not be a withdrawal.
According to Yevgeny Ilyin, the First Deputy Head of the Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Defense:
“The RF Ministry of Defense is actively monitoring the activities of the United States in fulfilling its obligations… Appropriate measures are being taken, and they were announced by the President of the Russian Federation to build up the potential of nuclear deterrence forces and to adopt new types of strategic offensive weapons. As for the levels that were announced in terms of the number carriers of nuclear charges, they will also be observed during the pause in the implementation of the START and, accordingly, the process of exchange notification under the 1988 agreements between the USSR and the USA has also been established, it exists, it will be implemented in full.”
This means that while the Russian Federation will seek to enhance its nuclear arsenal through development of better weapons, the number of warheads and carriers will not increase and will still follow the New START treaty. The most significant impacts of suspension of the treaty will be the full halt of reciprocal inspections and transparency regarding nuclear arsenals. According to the U.S. Department of State, those restrictions are:
- 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments;
- 1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments (each such heavy bomber is counted as one warhead toward this limit);
- 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
Earlier Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia would continue to adhere to the central quantitative restrictions under the New START as well as the ballistic missile launch notification agreement to maintain strategic stability. These announcements come in the midst of a unanimous vote in the Russia Duma to suspend the New START treaty which drew backlash from the U.S. and other Western governments.
Just in – Blinken says Russia's decision to suspend participation in New START treaty is "deeply unfortunate and irresponsible"
— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) February 21, 2023
This development comes as both Ukraine and the Russian Federation have stepped up their nuclear rhetoric in the past few days. The Russian Federation has claimed that Ukraine will stage a false flag operation in the vicinity of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone using nuclear materials obtained from “Western nations”. State-owned media published several stories claiming that the Ukrainian military would use recovered Russia rockets to make it appear as if an attack were carried out on the defunct power plant.
This nuclear rhetoric surely coincides with the one year mark of the war as both sides attempt to dislodge the other in the Donbass and as the Russian Federation attempts to dissuade foreign nations from supporting Ukraine. U.S. President Biden’s surprise visit to Ukraine during this vital time is a sign that both Russia and the U.S. are waging an intense Information Operations campaign over foreign support to Ukraine.