On Friday, Russia signaled its swift progression toward withdrawing its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, following President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that the country might consider resuming nuclear testing.
A resumption in nuclear tests by Russia, the United States or both would be profoundly destabilising at a time when tensions between the two countries are greater than at any time since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Putin on Thursday said Russia’s nuclear doctrine did not need updating but that he was not yet ready to say whether or not Russia needed to resume nuclear tests.
The Kremlin chief said that Russia should look at revoking ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as the United States had signed it but not ratified.
Just hours after Putin’s words, Russia’s top lawmaker, Vyacheslav Volodin, said the legislature’s bosses would swiftly consider the need to revoke Russia’s ratification for the treaty.
“The situation in the world has changed,” parliament peaker Volodin said. “Washington and Brussels have unleashed a war against our country.”
“At the next meeting of the State Duma Council, we will definitely discuss the issue of revoking the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty,” Volodin said.
Putin’s words, followed by Volodin’s, indicate that Russia is almost certain to revoke ratification of the treaty, which bans nuclear explosions by everyone, everywhere.
Russia, which inherited the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons, has the world’s biggest store of nuclear warheads.
In the five decades between 1945 and the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, more than 2,000 nuclear tests were carried out, 1,032 of them by the United States and 715 of them by the Soviet Union, according to the United Nations.
The Soviet Union last tested in 1990. The United States last tested in 1992.
Since the CTBT, 10 nuclear tests have taken place. India conducted two in 1998, Pakistan also two in 1998, and North Korea conducted tests in 2006, 2009, 2013, 2016 (twice) and 2017, according to the United Nations.
Putin said on Thursday that Russia had successfully tested a nuclear-powered and nuclear-capable cruise missile — the Burevestnik — whose capabilities he has called unmatched.
The Burevestnik, whose name translates as “storm petrel,” is a ground-launched, low-flying cruise missile that is not only capable of carrying a nuclear warhead but is also nuclear-powered. Putin first revealed the project in March 2018.
A 2020 report by the United States Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center said that if Russia successfully brought the Burevestnik into service, it would give Moscow a “unique weapon with intercontinental-range capability.”