Biden says Putin's decision doesn't show he's thinking of using nuclear weapons

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Biden departs for travel to New York from the White House in Washington

By Kanishka Singh and Costas Pitas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he did not read into Vladimir Putin's decision to temporarily suspend participation in a nuclear arms treaty as a signal the Russian president was considering using nuclear weapons, even though the U.S. leader called it a "big mistake."

"It's a big mistake to do that. Not very responsible. But I don't read into that that he's thinking of using nuclear weapons or anything like that," Biden told ABC News in an interview.

Putin earlier this week backed away from the New START arms control treaty - a 2010 agreement that limits the number of Russian and U.S. deployed strategic nuclear warheads - and warned that Moscow could resume nuclear tests.

However, Russia said it will stick to agreed limits on nuclear missiles and keep informing the United States about changes in its deployments despite the suspension.

When asked in the interview if the treaty's suspension made the world less safe, Biden said: "Well look, I think we're less safe when we walk away from arms control agreements that are very much in both parties' interests and in the world's interest."

However, he added there was no evidence to suggest a change in Russia's nuclear posture.

"The idea that somehow this means they're thinking of using nuclear weapons, intercontinental ballistic missile, there's no evidence of that," Biden said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that Russia's announced suspension was "deeply unfortunate and irresponsible". NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it made the world more dangerous, urging Putin to reconsider.

Moscow has demanded that British and French nuclear weapons targeted against Russia be included in the arms control framework, a position seen as a non-starter for Washington after over half a century of bilateral nuclear treaties with Russia.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh, Costas Pitas and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Alistair Bell)