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Tensions Escalate As Russia Steps Away From Nuclear Treaty Commitment

The Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, has voted in favor of legislation to revoke Moscow’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The Federation Council approved the move by 156 votes to zero on October 25, the final stage before it goes to President Vladimir Putin for signing. Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of parliament, passed the bill earlier this month. Putin had called for the action to "mirror" the position of the United States, which has signed but never ratified the 1996 treaty.

The CTBT has been signed by 187 countries and ratified by 178 but cannot go into force until eight holdouts -- China, Egypt, Iran, Israel, North Korea, India, Pakistan, and the United States -- have signed and ratified it.

Though the United States has not ratified the treaty, it has observed a moratorium on nuclear weapons test explosions since 1992 and says it has no plans to abandon the treaty.

Analysts have expressed concerns that Russia could move to resume nuclear tests to try to discourage the West from continuing to offer military support to Ukraine. Many Russian hawks have spoken in favor of a resumption of the tests.

Putin has said he has not made a decision on the matter, while noting some experts have argued that it's necessary to conduct nuclear tests.

CNN published satellite images last month showing Russia, the United States, and China have all built new facilities at their nuclear test sites in recent years.

The U.S. Energy Department said last week that it conducted a chemical explosion at its nuclear test site in Nevada "to improve the United States' ability to detect low-yield nuclear explosions around the world."

Speaking to the council before the vote on October 25, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the Nevada blast was "undoubtedly a political signal."

"As our president said, we must be on alert, and if the United States moves toward the start of nuclear tests, we will have to respond here in the same way," he said.

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on October 25 2023 said:
    This is a symbolic act to mirror the position of the United States, which has signed but never ratified the 1996 treaty.

    With the escalating tension between the United States and both Russia and China, there is a real possibility that the three countries could resume at some point some new nuclear testing.

    Russia considers itself facing a war waged against it by the United States and NATO.

    President Putin is determined to prevail in Ukraine whether on the battlefield or through negotiations. He knows very well that if he doesn’t prevail, Russia could be dismembered and replaced with a large number of countries on racial basis. That is why Russia will have to prevail. Otherwise the alternative is a nuclear war.

    Against this background, all existing nuclear treaties mean nothing to him until the Ukraine conflict is over on his own terms.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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