On Tuesday, the United States accused Russia of breaking the START nuclear arms limitation treaty by refusing to allow inspections inside its borders.
The treaty entered into force in 2011 and was extended for a further five years in 2021. It was the last significant piece of post-Cold War nuclear weapons control work. It places a cap on the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the US and Russia may deploy, as well as the use of bombers and missiles with land- and submarine-based launchers.
Together, the two nations continue to possess nearly 90% of the nuclear weapons in existence.
Washington has been working to keep the pact in place, but as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine about a year ago, relations with Moscow are at an all-time low. In order to assist Ukraine in thwarting a Russian attack, the U.S. has led Western allies in providing armaments to Ukraine.
“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 State Department said.
Moscow ceased operations with the treaty’s inspections in August. It pinned the blame on travel restrictions put in place by Washington and its allies after Russia invaded Ukraine, but it vowed to continue adhering to the treaty’s terms.
According to the State Department, Russia had a “clear path” to abide with the treaty by allowing inspections to go on.
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Russia informed the United States on Monday that the treaty might end without a replacement in 2026, stating that Washington was attempting to hand Moscow a “strategic defeat” in Ukraine.
It “is quite a realistic scenario,” according to Sergei Ryabkov, deputy foreign minister, “that there will not be a nuclear arms limitation deal after 2026.”
Russia Responds to US claims
Moscow’s ambassador to the US rejected Washington’s allegations. Anatoly Antonov called the allegations “sensational” in an interview with RIA Novosti on Wednesday, claiming that Russia has consistently adhered strictly to the terms of the New START deal.
Antonov said that by “illegitimately” removing more than a hundred strategic weapons from the treaty’s scope of accountability, it is in fact Washington that has broken the agreement.
“These actions concern the central limits of New START, undermining the key goal of the agreement – to maintain the balance of the parties’ strategic offensive arms,” the ambassador said.
The ambassador responded to charges that Moscow had rejected site visits and delayed the next meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Commission by saying that the US was trying to transfer responsibility while refusing to recognise the underlying causes of the current situation.
“We have repeatedly pointed out to Washington that the situation around START is a direct result of the hybrid war unleashed by the West against our country,” Antonov said.
“We warned them that arms control could not be isolated from geopolitical realities. In the current conditions, we consider it unjustified, untimely, and inappropriate to invite the US military to our strategic facilities.”
The ambassador emphasised that Russia is still devoted to the deal and regards it as a “valuable tool” for fostering predictability in interactions between big nuclear countries. He also stressed that it is impossible to make any progress in arms limitation unless the US reconsiders its fixation on trying to hand Russia a strategic defeat.
-In response to US accusations vis Russia re: inspections and delaying the BCC meeting:
As is "good American tradition" the US refuses to see "the root cause" – the "current situation surrounding New START" is the result of a "hybrid war" the West is waging against Russia (4/6)
— Hanna Notte (@HannaNotte) February 1, 2023
The New START deal, which was initially signed in 2010 by then-Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, sought to cut the number of strategically placed nuclear missile launchers in half. The nuclear arms race might start if the treaty isn’t extended before it expires in 2026, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.