Russia would suspend involvement in the new START nuclear treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced at an address at the Federal Assembly on Tuesday, in a speech about the challenges facing his country.
Putin said that Russia would not withdraw fully from START, only suspend its participation and that its return to the treaty was predicated on the status of NATO's combined nuclear arsenal.
Putin said that the Defense Ministry and the Rosatom state nuclear corporation should be prepared to conduct nuclear tests if necessary, but that the Kremlin would not be the first to conduct them. He said that officials in Washington were considering testing nuclear weapons.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that Putin's announcement on START was "deeply unfortunate and irresponsible. We’ll be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does. We will, of course, make sure that in any event we are postured appropriately for the security of our own country and that of our allies."
Blinken said that the US was ready to resume talks about arms limitations with Russia at anytime, regardless of other global issues.
"When the administration started, we extended New START because it was clearly in the security interests of our country and actually in the security interests of Russia," said Blinken. "And that only underscores what an irresponsible action this is."
The 2010 New START treaty is a replacement treaty for the historic 1991 START 1 treaty that drastically cut and controlled nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the United States of America and the then-Soviet Union.
According to the US State Department, the new treaty, which had been agreed upon to extend into 2026, would limit the state to 700 deployed nuclear missiles, 1,550 deployed warheads, and 800 nuclear-capable launchers and platforms.
"New START limits all Russian deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons, including every Russian nuclear warhead that is loaded onto an intercontinental-range ballistic missile that can reach the United States in approximately 30 minutes," the US State Department's website says on the treaty. "The Russian Federation has the capacity to deploy many more than 1,550 warheads on its modernized ICBMs and SLBMs, as well as heavy bombers, but is constrained from doing so by New START."
Ninety percent of Russia's nuclear forces had to be refitted with the latest systems, Putin said on Tuesday.
A recent Norwegian intelligence report had recently warned that Russia's Northern Fleet had been armed with tactical nuclear weapons for the first time since the Cold War.
The Russian military would also be armed with the most advanced technologies possible, and that many Russian weapon models were vastly superior to their foreign counterparts.
The objective of Western countries was to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia, but failed "to realize that it is impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield."
Putin says the West is out to get Russia
Putin said that Western states sought to continue to "finish off" Russia in the post-Soviet era, and to "set fire" to former Soviet states. It was doing so by setting terrorist groups on Russia and provoking regional conflicts on its borders.
The Russian leader said that the West's goal "to tear these historical territories, which today are called Ukraine, from our country," was not new and was also sought by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Poland, and Nazi Germany.
"The concept of honor, trust and decency is not for them," said Putin. "Over the long centuries of colonialism, tyranny, hegemony, they are accustomed to the fact that everything is allowed to them, they are accustomed to spit on the whole world."
America had established an America-centric world order, said Putin.