Russian parliament backs withdrawing from nuclear test ban

October 25, 2023

The upper house of Russia’s parliament, the Federation Council, voted Wednesday to endorse a bill rescinding ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; the lower house approved the bill last week.

The Kremlin calls the parliament’s action a move to establish parity with the United States, which signed but has not ratified the nuclear test ban, nor have China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Iran and Egypt. Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned that Moscow could revoke the Kremlin’s decision from the year 2000 to ratify the bill.

The treaty was adopted in 1996. It bans all nuclear explosions anywhere in the world. However, the treaty was never fully implemented. 

The Russian parliament’s action at this time comes amid widespread concern that Russia feels pressed to resume nuclear tests in an effort to discourage the West from its continuing military support for Ukraine, though Putin has not publicly backed doing so.

However, just ahead of the one-year mark of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials said Russia carried out a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, though the test appeared to have failed. And during his annual State of the Nation address in February 2023 Putin announced that he was suspending participation in the 2010 New START treaty following a surprise visit to Ukraine by President Biden earlier that same month. 

 “As before, we will pay increased attention to strengthening the nuclear triad,” Putin said in another speech in February, referring to nuclear missiles based on land, at sea and in the air.

Earlier this month, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow would continue to respect the nuclear test ban and would only resume testing if Washington did so first.

On Wednesday Ryabkov said Moscow had received U.S. proposals to resume talks on strategic stability and arms controls, but that Russian officials don’t view such talks as possible “until the U.S. revises its deeply hostile policy course in relation to Russia.” 

PHOTO: Russian nuclear missile launchers at 2012 Victory Day parade rehearsal

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