Moscow, Feb 21: In a major move, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday announced that his country was suspending its participation in the New Start treaty - the sole remaining strategic weapons reduction treaty between the US and Russia.
"I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty," he said in his 'State of the Nation' address to the Russian Parliament, RT reported.
President Putin noted that Moscow will not exit the New Start Treaty, which limits each side to 1,550 long-range nuclear warheads, but will temporarily withdraw from it. The treaty, signed in 2010, was extended for five years in 2021.
Explaining the decision, he noted that the agreement was initially drawn up under completely different circumstances, when Russia and the US did not perceive each other as adversaries.
Now, however, according to the President, not only is the US issuing ultimatums to Russia, but NATO itself has essentially made an application to become part of the treaty as well.
The bloc members are now demanding an inspection of Russia's strategic facilities, Putin said, while Moscow's requests to inspect Western nuclear facilities under the treaty are systematically denied with only formal explanations for the rejection.
He noted that the US has continued to insist on maintaining hegemony, while its NATO partners openly admit that they want to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia.
"Russia cannot ignore this. We cannot allow ourselves to ignore this," he said.