The new START treaty officially called the Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, was signed by Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev and American President Barack Obama in April 2010 in Prague. This nuclear arms reduction agreement entered into force, after being ratified, a year later. In fact, this agreement is the only remaining treaty between the U.S. and the Russian Federation on the subject of nuclear arsenal regulation. Yet, on February 21, 2022, President Vladimir Putin announced its suspension in an annual address to Russia’s Federal Assembly. According to Putin, this suspension is not a complete withdrawal. To resume its participation, Russia will have to account for NATO’s combined strike arsenal among other issues. What is the history and the implications of this move?
World War II
To understand the present, we must return to the past and the history of nuclear arms usage and control. The U.S. ran the secret Manhattan Project during World War II to develop nuclear weapons. President Harry Truman, who replaced Franklin D. Roosevelt upon his death in April 1945, was tasked with completing the war effort in the European and Asia-Pacific theaters. He learned about the first successful—and successfully destructive—atomic test in New Mexico at the last wartime Allied conference in Potsdam in July 1945. One of the key issues discussed at Potsdam was Japan’s unconditional surrender. Truman decided to inform Joseph Stalin about this new powerful weapon, but the Soviet leader seemed uninterested. Behind the scenes, however, Stalin was already aware of the American project through Soviet intelligence. Indeed, the Soviet nuclear-research counterpart began in 1942, and now Stalin, too, wanted to expedite his project.