A senior Russian official has said it may respond to Western sanctions by opting out of the last nuclear arms deal with the United States, which will cut diplomatic ties with Western nations, and also freeze their assets.
The threat on Saturday, February 26, 2022, by former President, Dmitry Medvedev, comes as Russia’s ties with the West sank to new lows following its (Russia) invasion of Ukraine.
Medvedev, Deputy Head of Russia’s Security Council also averred Moscow could restore the death penalty after Russia is removed from Europe’s top rights group. The comment has, however, shocked human rights activists in a country that has not had capital punishment for a quarter-century.
The new sanctions by the West have placed tight restrictions on Russian financial operations, imposed a draconian ban on technology exports to Russia and frozen the assets of Putin and his Foreign Minister, Lavrov, a harsh response that dwarfed earlier Western restrictions.
Washington and its allies say even tougher sanctions are possible, including kicking Russia out of SWIFT, a dominant system for global financial transactions.
In sarcastic comments posted on a Russian social platform, Medvedev dismissed the sanctions as a show of Western “political impotence” that will only consolidate the Russian leadership and foment anti-Western feelings.
“We are being driven out of everywhere, punished and threatened, but we don’t feel scared,” Lavrov said, mocking the sanctions imposed by the US and its allies as an attempt to vindicate their past “shameful decisions, like a cowardly retreat from Afghanistan”.
Medvedev was placeholder president in 2008-2012 when Putin had to shift into the Prime Minister’s seat because of term limits. He then let Putin reclaim the presidency and served as his Prime Minister for eight years.
During Medvedev’s tenure as President, he was seen as more liberal compared with Putin, but on Saturday, February 26, 2022, he made a series of threats that even the most hawkish Kremlin figures have not mentioned to date.
Medvedev noted the sanctions offer the Kremlin a pretext to completely review its ties with the West, suggesting Russia could opt out of the New START nuclear arms control treaty that limits the US and Russian nuclear arsenals.
The treaty, which according to Medvedev was signed in 2010 with then-US President Barack Obama, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.
The pact, which is the last remaining US-Russian nuclear arms control agreement, was set to expire in February 2021, but Moscow and Washington extended it for another five years.
If Russia opts out of the agreement now, it will remove any checks on US and Russian nuclear forces and raise new threats to global security.
‘Binoculars and gunsights’
Medvedev also disclosed the prospect of cutting diplomatic ties with Western countries, saying “there is no particular need in maintaining diplomatic relations” and added, “We may look at each other in binoculars and gunsights.”
While referring to Western threats to freeze the assets of Russian companies and individuals, Medvedev said Moscow would not hesitate to do the same.
“We would need to respond in kind by freezing the assets of foreigners and foreign companies in Russia … and possibly by nationalising the assets of those who come from unfriendly jurisdictions. The most interesting things are only starting now.”Deputy Head of Russia’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev