In this image from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry, the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile blasts off during a test launch from the Plesetsk launch pad in northwestern Russia, March 30, 2018.
Russia is suspending its participation in rather than withdrawing from the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday.
NATO demanded in early February that Russia "return to the implementation" of the New START and allow inspections of its nuclear facilities. That "sounds like some kind of nonsense amid today's confrontation," Putin said in his annual address to the Federal Assembly.
He pointed out the combined strike potential of NATO as Britain and France also have nuclear arsenals that pose a threat to Russia. Meanwhile, Moscow has information that "certain figures in Washington" are considering nuclear weapon tests to develop new types of nuclear weapons.
"In this situation, the Russian Defense Ministry and Rosatom (Russia's State Atomic Energy Corporation) must ensure readiness for testing Russian nuclear weapons. Of course, we will not be the first to do this. But if the United States conducts a test, then will we," Putin said.
The New START, the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty in force between the two nuclear superpowers, can be extended by a maximum of five years with the consent of the two countries. Russia and the United States officially extended the treaty by five years on Feb. 3, 2021.