By Greg Rivera
Russian President Vladimir Putin commemorated the first anniversary of his invasion of Ukraine by ending his participation in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with the United States. The New START treaty is a landmark agreement between the United States and Russia that limits the number of nuclear weapons that both countries can possess to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads and 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers. Additionally, it provides for regular inspections and data exchanges to ensure compliance. The treaty, negotiated by President Obama and former Russian President Dimitry Medvedev in April 2010, was implemented on Feb. 5, 2011. Recently, U.S. intelligence officials accused China of providing military aid to the Kremlin. World leaders saw Putin’s announcement and the recent Russian-Chinese alliance as an escalation attempt. Many believe that the relationship presents a real nuclear threat to the rest of the world. In response, President Biden paid a surprise visit to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv. Never in Mr. Biden’s lifetime had a president visited a war zone not controlled by American forces. His historic unannounced covert trip was an exercise of unwavering solidarity with the Ukrainian people and officials. During the visit, Biden said: “I thought it was critical that there not be any doubt, none whatsoever, about U.S. support for Ukraine in the war. It is not just about freedom in Ukraine. It is about freedom of democracy at large.” The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has forced millions to flee their homes, with more than 7,000 civilians killed, including hundreds of children. In addition, the Ukrainian military estimates there have been well over 100,000 casualties, and the economy and critical infrastructure are devastated as essential resources remain under Russian control. By all accounts, Russian troops have underperformed and resorted to committing despicable war crimes that include the bombing of residential areas and the execution of civilian non-combatants. Withdrawal from the nuclear agreement could be a sign of desperation and frustration by a Russian President who grossly miscalculated the bravery and courage of the Ukrainian people. The situation in Ukraine remains fragile, and any further escalation could have severe consequences for the region and the world. Therefore, world leaders must continue working together to find a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the conflict. Preventing further loss of life and ensuring the region’s stability remains the primary goal for the rest of the world.