President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia is suspending its participation in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty.
Moscow is not withdrawing from the accord but is suspending its participation, Putin said in his address to the nation.
Under the key nuclear arms control treaty, both the United States and Russia are allowed to inspect each other’s weapons sites, but inspections have been suspended since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the New START treaty is still in force after a previous agreement between Moscow and Washington extended it until February 4, 2026.
According to US officials, Russia has consistently refused to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities.
“Russia is not complying with its obligation under the New START treaty to facilitate inspection activities in its territory,” a US State Department spokesman said in January.
“Russia’s refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and jeopardizes the viability of US-Russian nuclear arms control.”
Some context: The New START treaty is the only agreement to regulate the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.
The treaty limits the number of intercontinental-range nuclear weapons that both the US and Russia can possess. It was last extended for five years through early 2021, which means the two sides will have to start negotiating another arms control deal soon.
A session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission on the treaty was due to meet in Egypt in late November, but was abruptly called off.
The US has blamed Russia for the postponement, with a State Department spokesman saying the decision was made “unilaterally” by Russia.