Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed a bill into law that formally withdrew Russia’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
The CTBT prohibits all nuclear weapons tests but has not been ratified by many nuclear powers, including the US. When Putin announced Russia’s intention to revoke the ratification, he said it would be done to “mirror” US policy.
The US and Russia are still participants in the 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits all nuclear weapons tests except those performed underground.
It’s unclear if Russia intends to start testing nuclear weapons. Russian officials have said that if the US conducts “full-scale” nuclear weapons tests, Moscow would have to reciprocate.
In October, the US conducted an explosion at a nuclear test site in Nevada. According to Bloomberg, the test used chemicals and radioisotopes to “validate new predictive explosion models” that can help the Energy Department detect atomic blasts in other countries.
The explosion was viewed as a message to Russia since it came shortly after Moscow announced its intention to revoke the CTBT. Russian Deputy Foreign Ministry Sergey Ryabkov described the US test as a political message.
“It is definitely a political message. We must remain vigilant. As our president said, if the United States makes a move towards full-scale nuclear tests, we will have to give a reciprocal response in this field, too,” he said.