President Vladimir Putin declared in a speech to his country on Tuesday, February 21, that Russia is suspending its participation in New START, the last major military accord still in effect between Russia and the United States, just days before the first anniversary of the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

The US’s desire to inspect Russia’s military sites, which is required by the treaty, while simultaneously admitting that its ultimate objective is Russia’s strategic defeat, according to Putin, is the “theatre of the absurd.”

The original “Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,” also known as START-I, was signed between the US and the then-USSR in 1991 and went into effect in 1994. It bears the term START.

After expiring in 2009, START-I, which set a limit of 6,000 nuclear weapons and 1,600 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for each side, was followed by the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT, commonly known as the Treaty of Moscow), and later the New START accord.

The “Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms” or “New START” went into effect on February 5, 2011, and it set new, independently verifiable restrictions on nuclear weapons with an intercontinental range.

The central restrictions on strategic offensive weapons set forth in the pact had to be met by the two nations by February 5, 2018, and they had to adhere to those limits for the duration that the deal was in effect. The deal was subsequently extended by the US and the Russian Federation to February 4, 2026.

The primary restrictions of the deal, which the US and Russia complied with by February 5, 2018, and have abided by ever since, are listed on the New START page of the US Department of State’s website.

The terms of the treaty include comprehensive procedures for carrying out and verifying the central limitations and all other treaty obligations.

The conversion and elimination of strategic offensive weapons, the creation and maintenance of a database of information required by the treaty, transparency measures, a pledge not to obstruct national technical means of verification, the exchange of telemetric information, the conduct of on-site inspection activities, and the operation of the Bilateral Consultative Commission are all governed by these procedures, according to the State Department summary (BCC).

The treaty provides for 18 on-site inspections per year for US and Russian inspection teams. Category One inspections focus on sites with deployed and non-deployed strategic systems (up to 10 per year), and Type Two inspections focus on facilities with just non-deployed strategic systems (up to 8 per year), the State Department notice states.

As of February 1, 2023, the two parties have carried out 328 on-site inspections since the New START Treaty came into effect, exchanged 25,311 notifications, held 19 meetings of the Bilateral Consultative Commission, and carried out 42 biannual data exchanges on strategic offensive weapons covered by the treaty.

The only nuclear arms control agreement between the two countries, New START, was put in jeopardy by Russia’s noncompliance with it, the State Department informed Congress in January of this year, according to The New York Times.

“Russia’s refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control,” the State Department said in a statement.

“Russia has also failed to comply with the New START treaty obligation to convene a session of the bilateral consultative commission in accordance with the treaty-mandated timeline,” it said.

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