On October 18, 2023, the Russian parliament passed a bill to revoke its ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, while retaining its cooperation with the treaty’s verification system and implementing organisation. The law strikes Article 1 (on ratification) of the 2000 law which Russia passed to ratify the treaty and outline its cooperation with the International Monitoring System and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. The bill was officially signed into law by President Putin on 2 November.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, adopted in 1996, is the first international treaty to ban all nuclear tests. It has 187 states which have signed, and 178 which have ratified, but has not entered into force yet because of the failure of eight states, upon whose ratification the entry into force of the treaty depends: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is the only international treaty in force with a categorical ban on nuclear testing (Article 1(a)).
The move by the Russian Duma came after explicit calls from Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw from the treaty. On Friday October 6th, President Putin stated that, in regards to the CTBT, he sees it fit to “mirror the manner of the United States,” which has signed but not ratified the treaty, and revoke Russia’s ratification. He added that “this is a question for the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] deputies. In theory, this ratification could be revoked.” On October 9th, the Duma’s Committee on International Affairs was instructed to contact the Russian Foreign Ministry to look into the issue of withdrawing the ratification of the CTBT.
As a signatory to the Treaty, Russia still retains the responsibility not to engage in any behaviour that would defeat the Treaty’s object and purpose, according to Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
Nuclear testing has had devastating humanitarian and environmental consequences around the world. The former Soviet Union’s hundreds of nuclear tests in the Arctic and across Eastern Europe and Asia left a legacy of medical, psychological and socio-economic trauma, displacement of Indigenous peoples and contaminated the environment with radiation for generations to come.
ICAN Executive Director Melissa Parke condemned the move, saying: “Russia must reverse this irresponsible decision immediately. International treaties, including the CTBT and the TPNW, are critical to making sure nuclear testing which has harmed people’s health and spread lasting radioactive contamination, is not resumed. Russia must remain fully committed to the CTBT and all countries that have not joined the CTBT and the TPNW should do so as a matter of urgency.”
A joint statement issued by 44 nuclear weapons experts from across international civil society, including Melissa Parke, on 23 October called on all countries that have signed and ratified the CTBT and the TPNW to urge the eight states that have yet to ratify it (China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States) to do so. In addition, the experts call for international pressure on Russia to reverse its de-ratification of the treaty.