Vladimir Putin has announced that Russia will suspend its membership in the New Start deal, the final surviving nuclear arms limitation pact with the United States, escalating tensions with Washington over the conflict in Ukraine.
In his address to the nation, he also stated that Russia should be prepared to begin nuclear weapons tests if the United States did so, a move that would end the global ban on nuclear weapons tests that has been in place since the end of the Cold War.
Putin explained his decision to suspend Russia's responsibilities under the 2010 New Start deal by claiming that the United States and its NATO allies had openly declared Moscow's defeat in Ukraine as their objective.
"They want to inflict a 'strategic defeat' on us and simultaneously gain access to our nuclear facilities," he added, announcing Russia's decision to stop its membership in the deal.
Later, he forwarded a draft measure regarding the suspension of the accord to the Kremlin-controlled lower house, which is anticipated to rubber-stamp it today.
He emphasized that Moscow was not completely withdrawing from the treaty.
The foreign ministry announced, hours after his speech, that the nation would adhere to the treaty's limits on nuclear weapons.
According to the ministry, in accordance with prior agreements with the United States, Russia will also continue to communicate information regarding test launches of ballistic missiles.
Noting that the decision to halt Russia's participation in New Start might be reversed, the foreign ministry encouraged the United States to de-escalate tensions and foster an environment conducive to implementing the pact.
The treaty calls for limits on the number of nuclear weapons and extensive inspections of nuclear sites. Still, Putin has stated that such reviews are pointless after the United States and its allies declared their intention to hand Moscow a military defeat in Ukraine and assisted the Ukrainian military in launching attacks against Russian nuclear facilities.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken slammed Putin's action as "very regrettable and reckless," saying, "We will be closely monitoring Russia's actions.
"We remain willing to discuss strategic weapons constraints with Russia at any time, regardless of what is happening in the globe or our relationship. I believe it is essential that we continue acting appropriately in this area. Additionally, the rest of the world expects this of us."
Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, also expressed disappointment over Putin's action, stating that "the entire arms control architecture has been dismantled."
"I urge Russia to reconsider its decision and uphold existing agreements,"
Putin noted that while the United States has advocated for the start of inspections of Russian nuclear sites by the treaty, NATO partners have assisted Ukraine in launching drone assaults against Russian air bases housing strategic bombers with nuclear capabilities.
Yesterday, the Russian leader derided NATO's declaration encouraging Moscow to resume American inspections of Russian nuclear weapons installations as "some sort of absurd theatre."
Putin stated, "The drones used for the operation were equipped and modernized with NATO's assistance."
"And now they wish to see our military installations? In the context of the current confrontation, it sounds ridiculous."
He characterized the United States' efforts to gain access to Russian nuclear installations as "the pinnacle of hypocrisy and cynicism."
"They seek to inflict a strategic defeat' on us while also trying to gain access to our nuclear facilities," he claimed.
He mentioned signing an order a week ago to deploy additional land-based strategic missiles and inquired, "Are they also going to stick their noses in there?"
The Russian leader also claimed that a Nato statement on New Start raised the question of Britain's and France's nuclear weapons, which are part of the alliance's atomic capacity but not part of the US-Russian accord.
"They are also directed at us. Putin stated that the European armaments were directed at Russia.