Russia is in violation of a key nuclear arms control agreement with the United States and continues to refuse to allow 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 facilitate verification activities prevents the United States from exercising important treaty rights and threatens the viability of US-Russian nuclear arms control,” the spokesman said in a statement.
“Russia has also failed to comply with the obligation of the New START Treaty to convene a session of the bilateral consultative commission in accordance with the deadline stipulated in the treaty,” the spokesman added.
The US announcement is likely to increase tensions between the two countries as Moscow continues its war with Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber rattling of war has alarmed the United States and its allies.
In December, Putin warned of a “growing” threat of nuclear war, and this month Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, threatened that Russia could “provoke the outbreak of nuclear war” if it loses the war.
“Nuclear powers do not lose major conflicts on which their fate depends,” Medvedev wrote in a Telegram post. “It should be obvious to everyone. Even for a Western politician who has retained at least some traces of intelligence.”
And while a U.S. intelligence assessment in November showed Russian military officials discussed the circumstances under which Russia would use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, the U.S. has seen no evidence that Putin is willing to take the drastic step of using it, the officials told CNN. .
Under the New START treaty, the only agreement governing the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, Washington and Moscow are allowed to inspect each other’s weapons sites, but the inspections have been suspended since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A meeting of the bilateral consultative commission on the treaty was scheduled for Egypt at the end of November, but was unexpectedly canceled. The US blamed Russia for the delay, and a State Department spokesman said Russia made the decision “unilaterally”.
The treaty limits the number of deployed intercontinental nuclear weapons that the United States and Russia can have. It was last extended in 2021. initially for five years, meaning the two countries will soon have to start negotiations on another arms control agreement.
John Erath, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, stressed to CNN on Tuesday that Russia’s non-compliance “doesn’t mean it’s secretly building a lot of nuclear weapons.”
“That’s not the part they don’t meet,” he said. “These are inspection provisions.”
But he added that Russia was probably using its default as leverage to end the war on their terms.
“They chose New START as the leverage they had,” Erath said. “They know we’d like to see it continue and we’d like to see it implemented because everybody feels better when there’s an arms control agreement.”
Russia, he continued, “is using their non-compliance as a way to gain a little more leverage to say, ‘Oh, this war threatens arms control, it’s important to us. Hello Ukrainian friends, don’t you think you have done enough? How about stopping?'”
Lawmakers responded by warning that any future arms control deal with Russia could be in jeopardy if the situation is not salvaged.
“We have long supported strategic arms control with Russia, in 2010 we voted in favor of New START and advocate for the extension of the treaty under 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 any future strategic arms control treaty with Moscow,” Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez, Jack Reed and Mark Warner wrote in a joint statement.
The State Department says Russia can return to full compliance if it “allows inspection activities on its territory, as it has done for years under the New START Treaty,” and schedules a panel meeting.
“Russia has a clear path to return to full compliance. “Russia just needs to allow inspections on its territory, as it has done for years under the New START Treaty, and meet for a bilateral consultative commission meeting,” the spokesman said. “Nothing prevents Russian inspectors from traveling to the United States and conducting 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 warheads.
Administration officials said the willingness to discuss an arms control deal, even as Russia waged war in Ukraine, showed a U.S. commitment to diplomacy and reducing the risk of nuclear catastrophe.
However, Russia has indicated in recent days that US support for Ukraine is preventing the extension of the agreement.
On Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the last remaining element of the bilateral nuclear arms control treaty with the United States could expire in three years without a replacement.
Asked if Moscow could foresee there being no nuclear arms control agreement between the two countries when the 2011 deadline expires, Mr. extending the New START treaty beyond 2026, Ryabkov told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti on Monday: “It is very possible. script”.