Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced the suspension of the last major nuclear disarmament treaty with the United States. In his speech to the nation today in Moscow, the Kremlin chief said it was not an exit, but a suspension of the “New Start” treaty.

US-Russia relations have hit an all-time low since Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine began a year ago.

Putin accused the United States of “theatre of the absurd,” noting that Washington recently accused Moscow of not allowing experts into the country to inspect nuclear defense systems. If, in times of such tensions, someone in the West seriously expects Russia to grant this access, that’s “nonsense,” Putin said. At the same time, he reiterated that Russia would not grant US experts access because Russian inspectors were also unable to enter the United States due to Western sanctions.

Putin’s main reason for suspending “New Start” was that France and Great Britain, for example, were further developing their nuclear arsenals and aligning their nuclear potential against Russia. Putin also saw NATO’s statements on “New Start” as interference and a reason to reconsider the treaty.

Only remaining major arms control agreement

The New Start disarmament treaty is the only remaining major arms control agreement between the United States and Russia. The treaty limits the nuclear arsenals of both countries to 800 delivery systems and 1,550 operational warheads each. In addition, it is regulated that Washington and Moscow can exchange information about their strategic nuclear arsenals and hold up to 18 verification visits per year.

NATO recently accused Russia of breaching the treaty. Russia’s refusal to allow US inspections on its territory undermines the future of the treaty, sources in Brussels said in early February. Moscow, in turn, rejected these allegations at the time and blamed the United States.

Putin blames the West for the war

Shortly before the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine he ordered, Putin also blamed the West for the war. “They started the war,” Putin said in his speech, referring to Western countries. Russia is only trying to end the fighting, the Kremlin chief claimed in his speech to the representatives of the Federal Assembly. It is composed of the State Duma and the Federation Council and met in the Gostiny Dvor event center in Moscow.

Putin once again said that a “neo-Nazi regime” was in power in Ukraine. The “special military operation” that Moscow calls the war will continue. “Step by step, carefully and consistently, we will solve the tasks ahead of us,” said the 70-year-old.

Russian army to be modernized

At the same time he announced a modernization of the Russian army. “The level of equipment of Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces with the latest systems is now 91.3 percent,” Putin said. “Now – taking into account our accumulated experience – we need to achieve such a high level of quality in all parts of the armed forces,” he added.

From the Kremlin’s point of view, the war against the neighboring country has been anything but successful in recent months. International observers attest to some serious problems with the Russian army, particularly with regard to military equipment.

However, according to Putin, Russia has not allowed itself to be destabilized by the western sanctions. The anti-Russian sanctions would aim to make the people of Russia suffer. “They are such humanists,” he said. “They want to make the people suffer in order to destabilize our society. But their calculations didn’t work out,” he continued. According to Putin, “Russia’s economy and administrative system have turned out to be much stronger than the West expected.”

Putin promises reconstruction in Donbass

He promised reconstruction and jobs for the areas in Ukraine annexed by Moscow. There will also be major new programs for the development of the four “new subjects,” Putin said. Factories would be rebuilt and new jobs created, he said, to applause from hundreds who rose from their seats to an ovation.

So far, however, Russia has only controlled part of the illegally annexed areas of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Cherson. Ukraine has announced that it will liberate the areas from Russian occupation. Thousands of people have already died in the fighting. With a minute’s silence, Putin and the audience commemorated the war dead – shortly before the anniversary of the war he ordered.

Support for Veterans and Bereaved

Putin announced further financial support for Russian veterans and the families of killed soldiers. In his speech, he instructed the government to set up a special sovereign wealth fund in cooperation with the individual regions. Social workers should take care of the families of war dead and veterans.

In addition, everyone who fought in the war, which Moscow continues to describe as a “military special operation,” should be able to take a 14-day vacation every six months, Putin said.

On Friday, February 24th, it will be a year since Russia officially started the war against Ukraine. Putin’s appearance was his 18th state of the nation address to date. The previous one was almost two years ago and took place in April 2021. Last year there were none; the head of the Kremlin explained this with a very high “dynamics of events”.