In his wide-ranging speech at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin voiced the possibility that Russia could withdraw from the groundbreaking 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
At the event Putin was asked by the hardliner, Sergei Karaganov, if the Kremlin should lower the nuclear threshold to sober up Russia’s “insolent” adversaries.
Putin’s response was that the US had signed but not ratified the treaty while Russia had, but he said: “I am not ready to say whether we really need to conduct tests or not, but it is possible theoretically to behave in the same way as the United States.”
He added: “But this is a question for the deputies of the state Duma. Theoretically, it is possible to withdraw this ratification. That would be enough.”
Putin’s hint was followed up on Friday by the Chairman of Russia’s Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, who said the legislature should consider the benefits of revoking Russia’s ratification for the treaty as a matter of urgency.
“The situation in the world has changed,” Volodin said. “Washington and Brussels have unleashed a war against our country.”
He added: “At the next meeting of the State Duma Council, we will definitely discuss the issue of revoking the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.”
Some experts feel that two of Moscow’s top men bringing up the subject is an indication that Russia is almost certain to revoke ratification of the treaty that banned all nuclear explosions which has held firm for almost thirty years.
Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear nonproliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies published an assessment on the Arms Control Wonk website on Sept. 23 that showed increased activity at Russian, Chinese (and US) former nuclear test sites which supported the assumption that they were preparing to resume testing.
Russia has the world’s largest nuclear warhead stockpile and has carried out over 700 nuclear tests between 1945 and its last in 1990, while the US has done over 1,000 – the last being in 1992.
The threat to resume testing came at the same time that Russia claims to have successfully tested the nuclear reactor-powered Burevestnik (Storm Petrel) cruise missile. The Burevestnik was one of the “invincible weapons” Putin first revealed in March 2018.
Others suggest that this rhetoric is merely the latest example of the escalation of the nuclear saber-rattling that various Russian spokespersons and propagandists have indulged in as Moscow’s war in Ukraine has turned increasingly sour.
A few days before Putin raised the subject of possible resumption, the Russian Media Monitor website posted an Oct. 2 video of the notorious polemicist Margarita Simonyan saying Moscow should send a “nuclear ultimatum” to the West by testing a nuclear weapon “someplace in Siberia.”
At the same time Putin said on Thursday that Russia had no plans to change the doctrine that sets out the circumstances in which its forces might use nuclear weapons. He said that the existence of the state was not currently threatened and “no person of sound mind and clear memory” would contemplate a nuclear strike against Russia.
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