Most nuclear countries never ratified the treaty, but some Russian lawmakers have pushed for new tests
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed off on a law revoking Russia's ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a move he said is designed to bring Moscow into line with the United States.
Russia says that it will not resume testing unless Washington does and that its de-ratification does not change its nuclear posture or the way it shares information about its nuclear activities.
Washington had signed but never ratified the 1996 treaty and Putin had said he wanted Russia, which had signed and ratified the pact, to adopt the same stance on the treaty as the United States. In addition to the U.S., it has yet to be ratified by China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Iran and Egypt.
The move, though expected, is evidence of the deep chill between the United States and Russia, whose ties are at their lowest level since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, largely due to the war in Ukraine and what Moscow casts as Washington's attempts to stymie the emergence of a new multipolar world order.
Last year, Russia suspended the New START treaty on site inspections, while the U.S. in 2020 pulled out of the Open Skies treaty on communicating details of observation flights, citing alleged violations.
Robert Floyd, head of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, whose job is to promote recognition of the treaty and build up its verification regime to ensure no nuclear tests go undetected, condemned Russia's step.
"Today's decision by the Russian Federation to revoke its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is very disappointing and deeply regrettable," said Floyd, who had tried to lobby senior Russian officials to get them to change their mind, on X.
The treaty established a global network of observation posts that can detect the sound, shock waves or radioactive fallout from a nuclear explosion.
'We don't want to go there'
Western arms control experts are concerned that Russia may be inching toward a test to intimidate and evoke fear amid the Ukraine war, an idea Russian officials have played down.
Andrey Baklitskiy, senior researcher at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, has said Russia's de-ratification of the CTBT is part of a "slippery slope" toward resuming testing.
"We don't know what steps will follow and when, but we know where this road ends. And we don't want to go there," he said.
Putin said on Oct. 5 that he was not ready to say whether or not Russia should resume nuclear testing after calls from some Russian security experts and lawmakers to test a nuclear bomb as a warning to the West.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said last month that Moscow would continue to respect the ban and will only resume nuclear tests if Washington does first.
Russia has never carried out a nuclear test since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Soviets last tested in 1990 and the United States in 1992.
Both houses of Russia's parliament have already approved the step.
Putin's approval of the de-ratification law was posted on a government website which said the decision took immediate effect.
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