Geopolitical risks: Putin rows back on nuclear ban

President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill revoking Russia’s ratification of a global nuclear test ban, a move that Moscow said was needed to establish parity with the US.

Putin has said that rescinding the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, also known as the CTBT, would “mirror” the stand taken by the US, which has signed but not ratified the nuclear test ban.

Both houses of the Russian parliament voted last month to revoke Moscow’s ratification of the bill.

The CTBT, adopted in 1996, bans all nuclear explosions anywhere in the world, but the treaty was never fully implemented. In addition to the U.S., it has yet to be ratified by China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Iran and Egypt. 

There are widespread concerns that Russia may resume nuclear tests to try to discourage the West from continuing to offer military support to Ukraine. Many Russian hawks have spoken in favour of a resumption of the tests.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Russia’s move “represents a significant step in the wrong direction, taking us further from, not closer to, entry into force. Russia’s action will only serve to set back confidence in the international arms control regime.”

“Russian officials say Russia’s planned move to withdraw its ratification does not mean that it will resume testing, and we urge Moscow to hold to those statements,” Blinken said.

Putin has noted that some experts argue for the necessity of conducting nuclear tests, but said he had not formed an opinion on the issue.

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.