Russia's Withdrawal from Nuclear Test Ban Agreement Awaits Putin's Signature

Arms control experts say a Russian or American test could start a new arms race

by Sededin Dedovic
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Russia's Withdrawal from Nuclear Test Ban Agreement Awaits Putin's Signature
© Carl Court / Getty Images

On Wednesday, a pivotal moment unfolded in the Russian parliament, as legislators concluded voting on a law aimed at retracting Moscow's ratification of the global treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons testing. The upper house, the Federation Council, resoundingly endorsed the proposed law with an overwhelming majority of 156 votes, mirroring the unanimous support it had received in the lower house, the Duma, a short while earlier.

With the legislation's approval by both houses of the Russian parliament, the pivotal decision now rests with President Vladimir Putin, who must determine whether to affix his signature to this groundbreaking law. This development is emblematic of Russia's shifting approach to arms control, a trajectory that has been recently underscored by these legislative actions.

President Putin's choice will undoubtedly carry profound implications for both Russia's nuclear policy and the global landscape of arms control.
Notably, earlier this month, President Putin urged lawmakers to introduce this significant modification to the treaty in order to "reflect" the position of the United States, which, while having signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), has never formally ratified it.

Russia's approach signifies a shifting of gears in its nuclear policy. Russia, in no uncertain terms, has communicated its commitment to refrain from conducting any nuclear testing unless and until the United States does so.

However, this particular stance has drawn concern and skepticism from arms control experts and international observers. The worry lies in the possibility that this approach could be construed as a provocative escalation, especially in the midst of the ongoing war in Ukraine, raising questions about the broader implications for global security and stability.

Ukraine, in response to these developments, has accused Russia of engaging in "nuclear blackmail." The term encapsulates the growing unease and apprehension among nations in the face of shifting nuclear dynamics. As the global community watches with bated breath, the fate of the CTBT and its potential impact on the balance of power in an already volatile world hangs in the balance, awaiting President Putin's decision and its ripple effects on the global nuclear landscape.

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