Defense & National Security — US says Russia is violating nuclear arms treaty

Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File
FILE – In image from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Oct. 26, 2022, a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile is test-fired as part of Russia’s nuclear drills from a launch site in Plesetsk, northwestern Russia. The Biden administration is faulting Russia for failing to allow on-the-ground nuclear inspections, accusing Moscow of endangering arms control efforts. The administration delivered its assessment Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, in a report to Congress.

Russia’s refusal to engage with the U.S. on resuming nuclear arms inspections has taken another worrying turn, with the State Department telling Congress that Moscow is in noncompliance.

We’ve got the breakdown of the State Department report and what Russia has said about the nuclear treaty.

Plus: The details on a strengthening alliance between the U.S. and South Korea and Ukraine’s top prosecutor pushing for the prosecution of Russian war crimes.

This is Defense & National Security, your guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Brad Dress.

US: Russia in noncompliance with nuclear treaty

The State Department accused Russia of not complying with the New START Treaty obligations, including a failure to resume on-site inspections of nuclear arms and a refusal to meet and discuss the treaty.

The New START Treaty permits both the U.S. and Russia to conduct inspections of each other’s nuclear weapons, but those were paused during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A November meeting in Egypt called the Bilateral Consultative Commission to restart inspections was postponed by Russia and has yet to be resumed by Moscow.

Violations: The State Department has raised concerns before but is now officially accusing Russia of violating the treaty, making the accusation in a report to Congress.

  • But the State Department says Russia “has a clear path for returning to full compliance.”
  • “All Russia needs to do is allow inspection activities on its territory, just as it did for years under the New START Treaty, and meet in a session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission,” a spokesperson told The Hill. “There is nothing preventing Russian inspectors from traveling to the United States and conducting inspections.”

Nuclear threats: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies have repeatedly threatened the use of nuclear weapons amid numerous setbacks for his army in the war in Ukraine.

Last fall, Putin even said the nuclear weapon threats were “not a bluff.”

The situation has grown so dire that the Doomsday clock has inched to just 90 seconds to midnight — for the first time ever.

Congressional blowback: After receiving the report, Republican lawmakers quickly condemned Russia for the violations.

GOP Sens. Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Deb Fischer (Neb.), as well as House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), said Russia must be held accountable for the violations.

“We urge President Biden to direct the Department of Defense to prepare for a future where Russia may deploy large numbers of warheads, well in excess of New START Treaty limits,” they said in a joint statement.

Read the full story here.  

Ukraine’s top prosecutor rallying US on legal battle

Kyiv’s top law enforcement official, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, wants to punish Russia in the courtroom for war crimes.

“The instruments of delivering justice should be as strong as weapons we receive in order to fight for our independence,” Kostin told The Hill after Western allies announced tanks for Ukraine.

The push for a special tribunal: Ukraine is pushing to prosecute the tens of thousands of Russian war crimes through an international court.

Kyiv also wants to establish a special tribunal to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin to account for invading last February.

Kostin is in Washington this week to meet with Attorney General Merrick Garland and other administration officials to support legal accountability against Russia. Biden administration officials have said they are engaging in conversations with Ukraine.

An enormous challenge: The number of war crimes is expected to increase as the war drags on, and Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General is already investigating at least 67,000 documented cases.

  • Among the crimes are 155 identified cases of sexual violence and the abduction of Ukrainian children, with an estimated 15,000 deported to Russia.
  • Some cases are already in court, Kostin said, even if in absentia.
  • “If we are talking about for the sake of justice for the survivors, it’s important for them to know that this case goes to court,” he said.

Read more here.

US to send more weapons, up drills in South Korea

The U.S. is bolstering its alliance with South Korea amid increasing tensions with North Korea in the Indo-Pacific region.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin forged an agreement with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Jong-sup, to increase the scope and size of live training drills to deter North Korean aggression.

  • At a Tuesday press conference, Austin said the announcements show “our unwavering commitment to maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula” in the past 70 years.
  • “As we look toward the next 70 years, we’ll continue working toward our vision of a stable and secure Korean Peninsula,” he said.

More planes and drills: The two countries have also pledged to deploy more U.S. strategic assets, with Austin saying to “expect more” fifth-generation aircraft like the F-35 in South Korea.

  • Expanded joint military drills are also expected, including for this year. The two nations agreed to bolster the exercises after finding they served as an effective deterrence against North Korea.
  • The military exercises were continued last year after a hiatus following the pandemic and former President Trump’s negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korean aggression: North Korea fired a record number of missile tests last year, including several intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Those have alarmed not only South Korea but also Japan, which is on pace to boost its defense budget and is now seeking offensive weapons and military equipment.

Kim has shown no signs of abating his aggression, pushing for an exponential increase of nuclear weapons at the beginning of this year.

Read that story here.


  • The Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress will discuss the new book, “No Limits: The Inside Story of China’s War With the West” with author Andrew Small at 9 a.m. ET.
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will talk on the United Nation’s latest report for global human trafficking at 3 p.m. ET for a hybrid event.
  • Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson joins the Atlantic Council for a virtual event at 11:30 a.m. ET to discuss support for Ukraine.
  • Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates discusses Russia, China and international affairs with Washington Post Live at 1 p.m. ET.
  • George Washington University hosts Leonid Volkov, chief of staff for Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny, to discuss the war in Ukraine and the Russian reaction. The event begins at 4 p.m. at GWU’s campus in Washington, D.C.



Preparing for strategic competition: The need for irregular warfare professional military education

That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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