Russian lawmakers have approved a bill revoking the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The move adds to the tension between Moscow and the West amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The upper house Federation Council unanimously approved the bill to abandon the landmark agreement outlawing nuclear weapons tests on Wednesday. The lower house State Duma passed it in an accelerated vote last week. The legislation now only needs the signature of President Vladimir Putin to come into effect.
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Moscow announced on October 6 its intention to withdraw from the treaty to “mirror” the position of the United States, which has itself signed but never ratified the treaty.
It is unclear, however, whether the revocation will result in Russia resuming tests of nuclear weapons.
Putin said on October 5: “I hear calls to start testing nuclear weapons. I am not ready to say whether we really need to conduct tests or not.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier this month that Moscow will continue to respect the ban and will only resume nuclear tests if the US does so.
However, he noted on Wednesday that the US conducted a chemical explosion at its test site in Nevada.
While Washington said the test would help it “detect” low-yield nuclear explosions, Ryabkov told the Federation Council that the blast was “undoubtedly a political signal”.
“As our president said, we must be on alert, and if the United States moves towards the start of nuclear tests, we will have to respond here in the same way,” the official said.
The US stated earlier this month that it was “disturbed” by Russia’s move to revoke ratification of the treaty.
“A move like this by any state party needlessly endangers the global norm against nuclear explosive testing,” the US State Department said.
Russia should not be “wielding arms control and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric in a failing attempt to coerce other states”, the State Department added, appearing to suggest that the move was aimed at pressuring the US and other countries who are supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russian forces.
Since invading the neighbouring country, Putin has repeatedly invoked Russia’s nuclear doctrine.
With the abandonment of the CTBT, the last remaining bilateral nuclear weapons treaty between Washington and Moscow is New START, under which the pair used to regularly inspect each other’s nuclear facilities and limit warheads.
Russia suspended the treaty in February. It is due to expire in early 2026.
On Wednesday, Ryabkov told journalists in Moscow that the Kremlin had received informal proposals from the US to resume talks on issues of strategic stability and arms control “in isolation from everything that is happening”.
However, he said that Moscow believes it is “simply impossible” to return to such dialogue without a change in the “deeply fundamental hostile course towards Russia on the part of the US”.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies