STOCKHOLM - Dan Smith, SIPRI Director, commented on the decision taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin to suspend Russia’s participation in the New START treaty.

The treaty is the last remaining nuclear arms control agreement between Russia and the United States.

The treaty obligates both parties to reduce their number of deployed nuclear weapons.

Although Russia has not withdrawn from the treaty, its actions have created uncertainty and could be dangerous given the current atmosphere of hostility.


‘This is a disappointing, unimaginative but unsurprising step from which nobody benefits. One by one the pillars of nuclear arms control between Russia and the USA have been pulled down over the past two decades.

‘Although President Putin has not withdrawn Russia from the treaty, he has created uncertainty. This is probably deliberate, but it could also be dangerous in today’s atmosphere of heated animosity.

‘The New START treaty gave each of Russia and the USA the right to make 18 visits to each other’s weapons sites during the course of a year. Since the pandemic started those inspections have been called off. Part of the problem now is that Russia has claimed that the USA’s sanctions-based travel restrictions have made it hard for Russian inspectors to get to US sites; it has therefore refused to allow US inspectors to Russian sites. And last November Russia deferred sine die a meeting of the bilateral commission established under the treaty to handle such problems.

‘On the one hand you could say that nothing much has changed. This step was relatively predictable. Russia has confirmed that it does not intend to breach the treaty limits and that it will continue to notify the USA about any long-range missile launches. However, the uncertainty that this step creates may increase the difficulties in relations between Russia and the USA and their respective allies. It may also increase the already significant difficulties of preserving the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the world’s main barrier against more states getting nuclear weapons.’

The Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START, Prague Treaty) was signed by Russia and the United States at Prague on 8 April 2010. It entered into force on 5 February 2011. The treaty obligates the parties—Russia and the USA—to each reduce their number of (a) deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers to 700; (b) warheads on deployed ICBMs and SLBMs and warheads counted for deployed heavy bombers to 1550; and (c) deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and heavy bombers to 800. The reductions were achieved by 5 February 2018, as required by the treaty.

About SIPRI’s work on nuclear arms control

Work on nuclear arms control is a central pillar of SIPRI’s research. SIPRI analyses the causes behind the current Russian–US nuclear arms control deadlock and examines concrete measures to mitigate or overcome them. Its research highlights the need to expand the arms control agenda to include emerging technologies and advanced non-nuclear weapons and the need to explore measures and mechanisms for involving other nuclear-armed states in relevant discussions.