The Russian Parliament, the Duma, has voted to revoke a 1996 treaty that bans nuclear tests. It said the US never ratified it in the first place.
The move can be interpreted as a step towards the possible return of nuclear testing and the beginning of a new nuclear arms race.
The vote was passed by 412 votes to zero, with no abstentions.
Duma chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said Russia was revoking the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) due to what he said was the irresponsible attitude of the US toward global security, as Washington had never ratified the CBTB.
Ahead of the vote, Volodin said: “The Russian Federation will do everything to protect its citizens and to maintain global strategic parity.”
Some Eastern European countries have already criticised the decision. A representative of the Czech Republic said it was “yet another step in the wrong direction”.
A Polish Government official said Moscow had now confirmed its desire to destroy the global security architecture.
According to Austria’s envoy, other major agreements, such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme, are also under threat.
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the matter at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, where he said Russia should behave in the same way as the US.
The CTBT is a multilateral treaty that bans nuclear weapons-test explosions and any other aggressive nuclear activity for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 10, 1996 but has not come into force, as eight specific nations have not ratified it.
In total, 187 states have signed the CTBT, with 178 having legally approved it in their legislatures. The UK, France and Russia have signed and ratified the separate Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The United States, Israel, and China have all signed but not ratified the agreement. India, Pakistan and North Korea have neither signed nor ratified the treaty.
Russia has the world’s biggest arsenal of nuclear armaments, with 5,889 warheads as of 2023; the US has the second-largest stockpile, with 5,428 weapons. Russia has around 1,674 deployed missiles (those ready to launch), trailing the US with 1,770.
With the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons.