US says Russia is violating key nuclear arms control agreement


Russia is in violation of a key nuclear arms control agreement with the United States and continues to refuse inspections of its nuclear facilities, a State Department spokesman said Tuesday.

“Russia is not fulfilling its obligation under the New START Treaty to facilitate inspection activities on its territory. “Russia’s refusal to allow inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of US-Russian nuclear arms control,” the spokesman said in a statement.

“Russia has also failed to fulfill its obligations under the New START Treaty to convene a meeting of the bilateral consultative commission in accordance with the timeline set by the treaty,” the spokesman added.

The US announcement is likely to raise tensions as relations between the two countries are on the decline as Moscow continues its war against Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear weapons spree during the war alarmed the US and its allies.

In December, Putin warned of the “increasing” threat of nuclear war, and this month Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, threatened that a Russia that lost the war could “provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war.”

“Nuclear forces do not lose major conflicts on which their fate depends,” Medvedev wrote in a post on Telegram. “This should be clear to everyone. Even a Western politician who has retained at least a shred of intelligence.”

And while a U.S. intelligence assessment in November found that Russian military officials had discussed under what circumstances Russia would use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the U.S. has seen no evidence that Putin would take the drastic step of using them. officials told CNN.

Under the New START treaty – the only remaining agreement governing the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals – Washington and Moscow are allowed to carry out inspections of each other’s weapons sites, but inspections have been suspended since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A meeting of the bilateral consultative commission on the treaty was scheduled to take place in Egypt at the end of November, but was abruptly cancelled. The U.S. blamed Russia for the postponement, and a State Department spokesman said Russia made the decision “unilaterally.”

The treaty limits the number of intercontinental range nuclear weapons that both the United States and Russia can have. It was last extended in early 2021 for five years, meaning the two sides will soon have to start negotiating another arms control agreement.

John Erath, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Nuclear Nonproliferation, told CNN on Tuesday that Russia’s noncompliance “doesn’t mean it’s secretly building massive nuclear weapons.”

“It’s not the part they think is out of compliance,” he said. “These are the vetting provisions.”

But he added that Russia was likely using its non-compliance as leverage to try to end the war on their terms.

“They put themselves on New START as part of the leverage they have,” Erath said. “They know they’d like to see it continue and they’d like to see it implemented because everybody feels better when there’s a working arms control agreement.”

Russia, he continued, “is using their non-compliance as a way to gain a little more leverage so we can say, ‘Oh, this war threatens arms control, that’s important to us. Hey Ukrainian friends, don’t you think you have done enough? What if I stopped?’”

Lawmakers responded by warning that any future arms control agreement with Russia could be in jeopardy if the situation is not resolved.

“We have long supported strategic arms control with Russia, voted for New START in 2010, and advocated for an extension of the treaty during both the Trump and Biden administrations. But to be very clear, compliance with the obligations of the New START Treaty will be critical to the Senate’s consideration of a potential future strategic arms control treaty with Moscow,” Democratic Senators Bob Menendez, Jack Reed and Mark Warner said in a joint statement.

The State Department says Russia can return to full compliance if it “permits inspection activities on its territory, as it has done for years under the New START Treaty,” as well as scheduling a commission meeting.

“Russia has a clear path to return to full compliance. All Russia needs to do is allow inspection activities on its territory, as it has done for years under the New START Treaty, and meet at a bilateral consultative commission meeting,” the spokesman said. “There is nothing preventing Russian inspectors from traveling to the U.S. to conduct inspections.”

According to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Russia has approximately 5,977 nuclear warheads, of which 1,588 are deployed. According to the Center, the US has 5,550 nuclear warheads, including 3,800 active.

Administration officials said the willingness to discuss an arms control agreement, even as Russia waged its own war in Ukraine, demonstrated the U.S. commitment to diplomacy and reducing the risk of nuclear disaster.

But Russia has signaled in recent days that US support for Ukraine is preventing the contract from being extended.

On Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the last remaining element of a bilateral nuclear arms control treaty with the United States could expire in three years without a replacement.

Asked if Moscow could imagine not having a nuclear arms control agreement between the two countries when the 2011 New START treaty extension expires after 2026, Ryabkov told Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti on Monday: “It is very possible. scenario.”


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