Russia’s ambassador to the United States has warned that Moscow and Washington cannot restore key communication on their last remaining nuclear weapons treaty unless President Joe Biden’s administration reverses course on its punitive approach to bilateral relations.
The crucial agreement, known as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), has increasingly eroded since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when mutual on-site inspections were paused. These visits failed to resume in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine, as Moscow argued that sanctions effectively prevented personnel from traveling to the U.S. and, in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he would suspend the deal while remaining committed to its tenets.
Last month, Assistant Defense Secretary for Space Policy John Plumb said the Pentagon would follow suit. He and other U.S. officials have repeatedly charged the Kremlin with violating the treaty.
But Ambassador Anatoly Antonov at the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. tells a different story.
Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers parade through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in central Moscow on May 9, 2022.
“The United States uses a twisted logic,” Antonov told Newsweek. “On the one hand, they refuse to engage with us on a business-as-usual basis. At the same time, they insist on returning to the regular cooperation on the issue of the Treaty verification regime. The U.S. military is clearly itching to get into Russian bases which store nuclear weapons.”
“We do not agree with such an approach,” he added. “The overall negativity in U.S.-Russian relations cannot but affect arms control. It is impossible to view these matters in isolation from the politico-military and geostrategic realities.”
Antonov pointed out that it was Washington that “unilaterally suspended the bilateral strategic stability dialogue the main goal of which was to lay the foundation for future arms control and risk reduction measures.” Such discussions, the Russian diplomat argued, were geared toward “possible new arrangements” that “were to replace the New START Treaty which expires in 2026.”
That date was established on the eve of the treaty’s previous expiration date in February 2021, when Biden, shortly after taking office, took up Putin’s offer to extend the treaty for five years without conditions.
But U.S.-Russia relations deteriorated significantly over the course of the following year. After failed talks among the U.S., fellow NATO states and Russia toward revising the security architecture of Eastern Europe, where the Western bloc has expanded since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia launched what it refers to as a “special military operation” in neighboring Ukraine, sparking a conflict that continues this day.
The cumulative nuclear capabilities of the NATO countries is growing in importance given the ability of the United States, Great Britain and France to deploy their arsenals against Russia in a coordinated manner.Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov
With the U.S. and NATO aid pouring into Ukraine, Antonov accused the Biden administration of having “mobilized the Western war machine against our country.”
“The anti-Russian coalition has taken on an obvious nuclear dimension,” Antonov said. “The member states of the NATO military block, which openly positions itself as a nuclear alliance and actively pursues nuclear sharing missions, are increasingly speaking with one voice on issues of strategic stability. A striking example is the support of the allied states for the U.S. position on New START—an agreement in which they do not participate.”
“At the same time, the cumulative nuclear capabilities of the NATO countries is growing in importance given the ability of the United States, Great Britain and France to deploy their arsenals against Russia in a coordinated manner,” he added. “We cannot afford to ignore this factor when considering the future of the Treaty.”
He also considered it “noteworthy that White House official doctrines say nothing about the U.S.-Russia strategic stability dialogue,” long viewed as a cornerstone of post-Cold War non-proliferation infrastructure. Rather, Antonov said such documents “only mention some amorphous ‘framework’ of future agreements to replace New START” and, ultimately, “set the goal of inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia.”
The Biden administration has rejected Russia’s account of how New START has been derailed.
We are carefully assessing the national security impact of Russia’s failure to comply with its treaty obligations.”State Department spokesperson
“Contrary to Russian assertions, there is nothing preventing Russian inspectors from traveling to the United States and conducting inspections,” a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek. “There are no transit visa requirements, overflight restrictions, or financial or other sanctions that prevent Russia from fully exercising its treaty rights.”
“As a result of Russia’s noncompliance with its New START Treaty obligations and as a lawful countermeasure intended to encourage Russia to return to compliance with the Treaty, the United States will not provide its biannual data update to Russia,” the spokesperson added. “The United States informed Russia in advance of this step. In the interest of strategic stability, the United States will continue to promote public transparency on our nuclear force levels and posture.”
The spokesperson also said that Washington initially offered Moscow “to continue reciprocal implementation of this obligation during a period of high tension,” during which both Biden and Putin have increasingly mobilized nuclear-capable assets.
“Unfortunately, Russia informed the United States that it will not engage in this data exchange due to its purported suspension of the treaty,” the State Department spokesperson said. “As we have said before, that suspension was legally invalid. Russia’s failure to exchange this data will therefore be a violation of the Treaty, adding on to its existing violations of the New START Treaty.”
“Aside from the biannual data exchange,” the spokesperson added, “the United States continues to provide all required notifications under the New START Treaty.”
At the same time, the spokesperson asserted that, “we are carefully assessing the national security impact of Russia’s failure to comply with its treaty obligations.”
A table shows the New START aggregate numbers of strategic offensive arms of the U.S. and Russia as of the latest declared data from September 1, 2022. The deal restricts both Russia and the U.S.’ deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and heavy bombers to 700; their warheads on deployed ICBMs, on deployed SLBMs and nuclear warheads counted for deployed heavy bombers to 1,550; and their deployed and non-deployed launchers of ICBMs, of SLBMs and heavy bombers to 800.
U.S. Department of State
Antonov, for his part, however, argued that U.S. shortcomings in relation to New START predate both the pandemic and the current conflict in Ukraine.
The deal, which is a successor to the original START signed by Moscow and Washington months before the collapse of the USSR, was negotiated at a time when Antonov said “the state of bilateral relations was quite different” between the world’s two top nuclear weapons powers.
“We worked effectively—though not without difficulties—on the contents of the Treaty,” Antonov said. “Together we refined its provisions, paying careful attention to all the nuances. We believed that from the first to the last letter the document was legally binding.”
He pointed to the New START preamble, which states both parties’ intention “to forge a new strategic relationship based on mutual trust, openness, predictability, and cooperation.” Now, he argued, that “none of this is being implemented today” by the Biden administration. » …