President Joe Biden on Wednesday condemned Vladimir Putin’s decision to suspend Russian cooperation with the last remaining U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control treaty, further escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow.
Putin made the announcement in his state-of-the-nation address on Tuesday, as he railed against the West.
A day later, Biden was asked for his response just ahead of a meeting with Eastern European allies in Warsaw.
‘Big mistake,’ was his terse response.
Vladimir Putin signaled an end to formal arms control between the world’s two biggest nuclear superpowers when he announced he would suspend Russia’s participation in the New Start treaty on Tuesday
Biden condemned Putin’s New START treaty announcement before he sat down with leaders of the Bucharest Nine nations, a group of countries that make up NATO’s eastern flank
Biden’s comments came at the end of a four-day visit to Poland and Ukraine.
Wednesday brought talks with leaders from the Bucharest Nine, a collection of nations in the most eastern parts of the NATO alliance, putting them on the frontline of Western defenses after Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
He promised that NATO had a ‘sacred’ duty to defend all its members.
‘We will defend literally every inch of NATO … every inch of NATO,’ he told them.
Russia has the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal – inherited from the Soviet Union – and up until the COVID pandemic it was subjected to constant inspections and control from the U.S., whose arsenal comes in a close second.
The monitoring was part of the New START treaty, which was signed in 2010 and is in force until 2026.
It limits Moscow and Washington to deploying a maximum of 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads and no more than 700 long-range missiles and bombers.
But the deal was already in trouble. Last month American officials accused Moscow of violating the agreement by refusing to allow inspections.
Biden is welcomed by Polish President Andrzej Duda and Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on Wednesday
At the end of his speech on Tuesday blaming the West and global ‘elites’ for the war on Ukraine, he made clear that he would bar the United States from inspecting sites that house some of the 5,977 warheads owned by the Kremlin
They said privately they expected Russia to announce it was giving up on the treaty, but had not expected that decision to come so soon.
In address to lawmakers, Putin said Russia was withdrawing because of U.S. support to Ukraine.
William Alberque, director of strategy, technology and arms control at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Reuters ‘both sides could immediately go from 1,550 deployed strategic warheads to 4,000 – that could happen overnight.’
Security analysts have also said that this could bring an end to mutual deterrence, and let other superpowers such as China, India and Pakistan to develop their own arsenals.
Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said it was ‘no surprise’ that Putin has suspended participation, and called for a response.
He said the U.S. should deploy additional nuclear forces and accelerate planning in the event Putin breaches the caps.
Russia last year launched a hypersonic missile, the Zircon, from a submarine, and since late 2019 has had the hypersonic nuclear-capable Avangard missiles in service. The Avangard can travel at up to Mach 27, changing course and altitude
Polish President Andrzej Duda and US president Joe Biden face each other during their meeting at the presidential palace. Biden used the occasion to promise support to Europe
Marshall Billingslea, Donald Trump’s Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control at the State Department, told DailyMail.com that Russia and China will now deploy more warheads.
‘President Biden needs a forceful, but measured response that includes support for expedited fielding of a nuclear-tipped submarine-launched cruise missile and acquisition of additional B-21 bombers and Columbia submarines,’ he added.
Both countries, which account for 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, have so far adhered to the terms of the treaty by respecting the cap on the number of deployed warheads.
‘When Russia invaded, it wasn’t just Ukraine being tested. The whole world faced a test for the ages,’ he said during an address in front of Warsaw’s Royal Castle on Tuesday evening, the mark the anniversary of the invasion.
‘Europe was being tested. America was being tested. NATO was being tested. All democracies were being tested.’