Russian lawmakers to consider rescinding ratification of global nuclear test ban

AP , Friday 6 Oct 2023

Russian lawmakers will consider revoking the ratification of a global nuclear test ban, the parliament speaker said Friday.

Russia s new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile blasts off during a test launch from an undis
FILE PHOTO: In this video grab provided by RU-RTR Russian television via AP television on Thursday, March 1, 2018, Russia s new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile blasts off during a test launch from an undisclosed location in Russia. AP


The statement from Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house, the State Duma, followed Russian President Vladimir Putin's warning that Moscow could consider rescinding the ratification of the international pact banning nuclear tests since the United States has never ratified it.

There are widespread concerns that Russia could move to resume nuclear tests to try to discourage the West from continuing to offer military support to Ukraine. Many Russian hawks have spoken in favor of resuming the tests.

Volodin reaffirmed Moscow’s claim that Western military support for Ukraine means the U.S. and its allies are engaged in the conflict.

“Washington and Brussels have unleashed a war against our country,” Volodin said. “Today’s challenges require new decisions.”

He said that senior lawmakers will discuss recalling the 2000 ratification of the nuclear test ban at the next meeting of the agenda-setting house council.

“It conforms with our national interests,” Volodin said. “And it will come as a quid pro quo response to the United States, which has still failed to ratify the treaty.”

Speaking Thursday at a forum with foreign affairs experts, Putin noted the United States has signed but not ratified the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, while Russia has signed and ratified it. He argued that Russia could act in kind.

“Theoretically, we may revoke the ratification.” he said. “It's up to the State Duma members.”

Putin said that while some experts have talked about the need to conduct nuclear tests, he hasn’t yet formed an opinion on the issue.

“I’m not ready to say yet whether it’s necessary for us to conduct tests or not,” he said.

Asked Friday if rescinding the ban could pave the way for the resumption of tests, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “it doesn't mean a statement about the intention to resume nuclear tests.”

He noted that a possible move to revoke Russia's ratification of the ban would "bring the situation to a common denominator” with the U.S.

Russia’s defense doctrine envisages a nuclear response to an atomic strike or even to an attack with conventional weapons that “threatens the very existence of the Russian state.” That vague wording has led some Russian hawks to urge the Kremlin to sharpen it, in order to force the West to take the warnings more seriously.

Responding to a question from an expert who suggested rewriting the nuclear doctrine to lower the threshold of nuclear weapons use to force the West to stop backing Ukraine, Putin said he sees no need to change the document.

“There is no situation in which anything would threaten Russian statehood and the existence of the Russian state,” he said. “I think that no person of sober mind and clear memory could have an idea to use nuclear weapons against Russia.”

Putin also announced Thursday that Russia has effectively completed the development of the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile and the Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile and will work on putting them into production.

Putin didn't elaborate on his statement, and Peskov refused to say when the test of the Burevestnik was conducted or offer any other details.

Little is known about the Burevestnik, which could carry a nuclear or a conventional warhead and potentially stay aloft for a much longer time and cover a longer distance than other missiles thanks to nuclear propulsion.

When Putin first revealed that Russia was working on the weapon in 2018, he claimed it would have an unlimited range, allowing it to circle the globe undetected by missile defense systems. Many Western experts have been skeptical about that, noting that a nuclear engine could be highly unreliable.

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