Biden Says Putin’s Decision to Suspend New START a ‘Big Mistake’

Russian officials say the decision could be reversed if the US takes steps to de-escalate tensions

President Biden on Wednesday said Russian President Vladimir Putin made a “big mistake” by suspending Russia’s participation in the last nuclear arms control treaty between the US and Russia, known as the New START.

When he made the announcement on Tuesday, Putin stressed he was only suspending Russia’s participation in New START, which places limits on the deployment of nuclear warheads and launchers.

A Russian diplomat on Wednesday said Putin’s move could be reversed if the US takes steps to de-escalate tensions with Moscow. “Suspension does not mean pullout. The situation can be ‘reversed’ if the United States shows political will and makes honest efforts for the sake of general de-escalation and creation of conditions for the comprehensive operation of New START,” said Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s envoy in Vienna.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov made similar comments. “There are chances that the New START will be reinstated as it was, but that completely and utterly depends on US behavior, its comprehension, or the failure to comprehend, that the policy it conducts toward Russia is malignant,” he said.

Biden has shown no interest in de-escalating tensions with Russia as he visited Ukraine on Monday and vowed to support the war for “as long as it takes.” While there are signs some people in his administration are thinking about eventually winding down the military aid, they are still pushing Ukraine to launch a counteroffensive and making clear they support attacks on Crimea, risking a major escalation in the coming months.

The US and Russia were engaged in arms control talks at the beginning of last year, but President Biden canceled the negotiations after Russia invaded Ukraine. The US and Russia eventually agreed to hold a meeting under the New START treaty in November 2022, but Moscow canceled the talks at the last minute, citing tensions with the US over Ukraine.

While Biden is critical of Putin’s decision, his administration previously rejected a Russian offer to salvage an arms control treaty that the Trump administration withdrew from, known as Open Skies, which allowed unarmed surveillance flights over participating countries.

When Biden was running for office in 2020, he sharply criticized the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of Open Skies. He said the move would “exacerbate growing tensions between the West and Russia, and increase the risks of miscalculation and conflict.” But after he became president and Russia offered to save the Open Skies treaty, Biden said no.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.