Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that nothing can hold back yet another arms race and thus international security will be damaged if the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with the United States is not renewed.
The Russian leader made the comments during his annual end-of-year marathon news conference in Moscow on Thursday, stressing that the US has not yet reacted to any Russian proposals over the treaty.
“We are ready until the end of the year to extend the existing agreement, the New START treaty,” Putin said, adding, “But thus far there has been no answer to any of our suggestions. And without a New START treaty, there is nothing to curb an arms race. And that, in my opinion, is bad.”
The START accord is the last major nuclear arms control treaty between Moscow and Washington that puts a limit on the development and deployment of strategic nuclear warheads of both countries.
Back in July 1991, the START which later was called the START I, was signed by then US president George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union, barring both countries from deploying more than 6,000 nuclear warheads atop a total of 1,600 inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and bombers.
In January 1993, President Bush and Boris Yeltsin, the former Russian president, signed START II, but it collapsed and never entered into effect.
The START I treaty expired in late 2009 and its replacement, called the New START or START III, was signed in April 2010 by former US president Barack Obama and then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, under which both sides agreed to halve the number of strategic nuclear missiles and restrict the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550.
“They [the Americans] can send us the [agreement] tomorrow, or we can sign and send it to Washington. Let their designated official sign it too, including the president, if they’re ready to do so,” said the Russian president.
The New START can be extended for another five years, beyond its expiry date in February 2021, by mutual agreement.
Earlier this month, Putin confirmed that Russia was ready “to immediately, as soon as possible, right before the end of this year, without any preconditions, to extend the New START Treaty”, which is the last remaining arms control agreement in force between Moscow and Washington after the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).
Back in February, the White House announced plans to pull out of the 1987 treaty with the Kremlin. The INF had banned all land-based missiles with the range up to 5,500 kilometers and officially left six months later.
The US’s withdrawal from the agreement came after it accused Russia of secretly violating it. Russia, which has repeatedly rejected these allegations, stopped implementing the INF treaty after the US left it.