While President Joseph Biden emphasized that the U.S. and its allies would not back down, tensions between the U.S. and the Kremlin increased on Tuesday, one day before the anniversary of Russia’s conflict in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin promised to withdraw Russia from a crucial nuclear deal.
Putin’s move came on the heels of a surprise and historic visit by Biden to Kyiv on Monday. In a nearly two-hour speech to both houses of the Russian Parliament, Putin said he was suspending Moscow’s participation in New START, a strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty between the U.S. and Russia.
Putin said he was taking action because of the U.S. and NATO, without specifying more. “In this regard, I am forced to announce today that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty,” he said.
Fewer than 800 kilometers away in Warsaw, Biden gave his speech. He said Putin thought Ukraine would “roll over” when he invaded with tanks a year ago, but “he was wrong” because of the bravery of Ukrainians and the “iron will” of nations everywhere that have come to Ukraine’s aid.
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“One year ago, the world was bracing for the fall of Kyiv,” Biden said. “Well, I just came from visiting Kyiv, and I can report Kyiv stands strong. Kyiv stands proud. It stands tall. And most importantly, it stands free.”
New START is the last nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and Russia. It was drafted in 2010, and in 2021 it was renewed for another five years. There is a cap of 1,550 long-range nuclear warheads for each side.
“Over the last (few) years, Russia has violated and walked away from key arms control agreements. With today’s decision on New START, the whole arms control architecture has been dismantled,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described Putin’s move as “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible. We’ll be watching carefully to see what Russia does.”
Although Biden did not directly address Putin’s pledge on the nuclear treaty, he said “autocrats” like Putin have weakened during the past year as democracies have grown stronger in support of Ukraine.
“A dictator bent on building an empire will never be able to e the people’s love of liberty,” Biden said. Biden also addressed the Russian people, telling them the U.S. and allies “do not seek to control or destroy Russia” and pushing back at Putin’s claim that the West is plotting to attack Russia. He said the Russian people “are not the enemies.”