In early October, during a traditional appearance at the Valdai Discussion Club, President Vladimir Putin hinted that Russia could “theoretically” withdraw from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. He added that it depends on the decision of the State Duma.
This week, deputies of the lower house of the Russian parliament unanimously approved a law by which Russia disengages from the obligations of the treaty. Next week, the Council of the Federation, i.e. the upper chamber, could also do so.
Is Moscow planning to conduct a nuclear bomb test, for example, “somewhere over Siberia”, as recently she claimed well-known pro-Kremlin propagandist Margarita Simonyan? Or is it more of a way for the Kremlin to deter the West from supplying Ukraine with advanced weapons?
Putin himself noted at the Valdai Club that Russia does not need nuclear weapons testing, but could imitate the United States, which signed the aforementioned treaty but did not ratify it in Congress. The moratorium on nuclear tests has nevertheless been observed by the US for a long time.
According to the leading expert on nuclear disarmament in the Czech Republic, Michal Smetana from the Faculty of Social Sciences of Charles University, it is rather a form of coercion on the part of Moscow.
“At the moment, it should be perceived primarily as part of a coercive strategy and a political gesture rather than as a decision that will irreversibly lead to the resumption of nuclear testing,” Smetana told Nauzal.
Back to nuclear testing
New supply facilities, tunnels and roads have sprung up at the bases of the powers. Traffic thickened near them. CNN, citing experts, estimates that countries are about to test nuclear weapons again.
On the other hand, according to the analyst, the decision of the Duma freed Russia to carry out a nuclear test, should it decide to do so.
Smetana confirmed that the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the protracted war were not only manifested by a new wave of talk about the possible deployment of nuclear weapons, but also by a general weakening of international arms control.
“The main blow is the formal suspension of Russia’s participation in the bilateral New START treaty (on the reduction of the number of strategic weapons, editor’s note), which was the last formal instrument that limited the size of the nuclear arsenals of both nuclear powers,” the expert emphasized. Russia suspended its participation in the treaty in February this year.
Russia and the New START Treaty
In February, Putin announced the suspension of participation in the last remaining Russian-American treaty regulating nuclear weapons. According to the analyst, there is no need to panic, but from the point of view of international security, it was bad news.
Analysts at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) also drew attention to the unclear fate of the New START treaty this week. They reminded that this is the last treaty limiting the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States, which together make up almost 90 percent of all nuclear weapons in the world. The validity of the contract expires in 2026 and there are no negotiations on a new contract.
Smetana added that it is no longer possible to extend the existing contract.
“If both sides have the will to continue some kind of arms control regime after February 2026, when the treaty finally expires, they will have to negotiate and sign either a new treaty or at least some less formal arrangement with a similar goal,” the nuclear weapons expert said. .
“In any case, it is true that although it is in the interest of both nuclear powers to achieve some kind of mutual regulation, politically mutual negotiation is a very sensitive issue and one should be very skeptical about the success of such an action,” Smetana added.