US accuses Russia of violating major nuke treaty

The United States on Tuesday accused Russia of violating a major nuclear arms control agreement by not allowing on-site inspections and refusing to meet to discuss such concerns. 

“Russia is not complying with its obligation under the New START Treaty to facilitate inspection activities on its territory,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill. “Russia’s refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control.” 

The spokesperson added that Russia has also failed to comply with the treaty’s “obligation to convene a session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission in accordance with the treaty-mandated timeline.” 

The announcement of the violations, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is likely to ramp up tensions between Washington and Moscow after they were already strained due to the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin has on numerous occasions threatened nuclear action since starting the conflict nearly a year ago, alarming the United States and its allies. 

New START, established under the Obama administration in 2011, dictates the number of nuclear warheads both the United States and Russia can deploy at any time.

Russian lawmakers in January 2021 passed a five-year extension of the treaty with the U.S. just ahead of the nuclear arms control pact’s expiration, though there are concerns the Kremlin will refuse to negotiate a follow-on agreement to take effect after New START expires in 2026. 

The last major nuclear arms pact in the post-Cold War era, the treaty also permits the two countries to conduct inspections of each other’s weapons sites. Such inspections have been postponed since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though the United States has accused Russia of delaying a Bilateral Consultative Commission on the treaty. That meeting was set for November in Egypt but was called off at the last moment.  

The State Department’s finding, revealed in a report sent to Congress earlier Tuesday, is the first time Washington has accused Moscow of violating the agreement.  

“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. There is nothing preventing Russian inspectors from traveling to the United States and conducting inspections,” according to the State Department spokesperson.  

Following the report to Congress, Republican lawmakers condemned the Russian violations and warned that the infringement had serious implications for global security. They also urged the administration to ready the U.S. military should it need to respond.

“Russia must be held accountable for its actions if the New START Treaty, or any future agreement, is to have any meaning at all. If these agreements cannot be enforced, then they do nothing to enhance U.S. security, and serve only to undermine it,” according to a joint statement from Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss,) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.).  

“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 added. 

Tags Nuclear arms control russia ukraine Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin

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