Putin promotes Russian escalation in annual speechon February 21, 2023 at 4:53 pm

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The president says he is taking Russia out of the last nuclear arms control treaty with America.

Russian President Vladimir PutinImage source, Shuttershock

Escalation. It’s become President Putin’s watchword.

And we saw more of it today.

“Russia suspends its participation in the New Start treaty,” announced the Kremlin leader in his state of the nation address. As usual he blamed the West.

New Start is the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and America. It limits the nuclear arsenals of the two countries.

But there was more.

The Russian president announced that he had signed a decree on “putting new ground-based strategic complexes on combat standby duty”.

He warned that Russia was ready to resume nuclear weapons testing.

“Of course, we will not do it first,” President Putin added. “But if the US conducts tests, we will do it as well.”

New Start had been in trouble. Last month Washington had accused Moscow of violating the agreement by refusing to allow inspection activities on its territory.

Moscow’s suspension of its participation in the treaty raises the stakes.

“This is more about nuclear blackmail, but it is extremely dangerous,” believes Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “because we cannot predict how Putin will behave in the future and what is in his mind.

“In order to avoid nuclear war, it’s better to have a framework,” he added.

“By losing this framework we are witnessing the real threat of a nuclear war.”

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What is the New Start treaty?

Russian RS-24 Yars strategic nuclear missile, at Teykovo base, 23 Sep 11

Image source, AFP

Signed in 2010 by two then presidents – Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev – the New Start treaty was designed to prevent nuclear war. It limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads that both sides can deploy, and gives each country the power to inspect the other.

The arrangement came into force in 2011 and was extended 10 years later – although weapons inspections were disrupted by the Covid pandemic.

Each side’s limit is 1,550 long-range nuclear warheads, a lower number than under the previous Start deal.

Between them, the two former Cold War rivals account for almost all of the world’s nuclear weapons. Russia had previously said it wanted to keep the treaty running – despite hostile rhetoric on both sides during the Ukraine war.

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We’re also witnessing a Kremlin leader who expresses no remorse or regret for his decision to invade Ukraine.

His “special military operation” has not gone at all according to plan, bringing misery to Ukraine, heavy military casualties for Russia and forcing President Putin to draft hundreds of thousands of Russians into the army.

So, was the invasion a huge mistake? A giant miscalculation? You won’t hear Putin admit to one of those. He continues to push the false narrative that the West is to blame for the war.

“I want to repeat,” he said. “They [the West] started the war. And we used force and are using force to stop it.”

“The Western elites do not conceal their goals to bring Russia a strategic defeat. What does it mean? It means to end us, once and for all.

It means they plan to turn a local conflict into a global confrontation. We understand it exactly like that. We will react to it accordingly. This is because in this case it is about the very existence of our country.”

President Putin exuded confidence that Russia could survive international sanctions and – despite Western support for Ukraine – emerge victorious. No hint of compromise. No sign he’s looking for an off-ramp.

“He thinks he has reserves for continuing the war and confrontation. It’s a bad sign,” Mr Kolesnikov concludes.” He has disrupted any connection with Western countries. He is not ready to finish this disaster right now. He will continue.”

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