Russia suspends US inspections of nuclear weapons

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia on Monday announced a freeze on U.S. inspections of nuclear weapons under a pivotal arms control treaty, saying Western sanctions have prevented Russian observers from doing similar tours of U.S. facilities. claimed.

The move reflects growing tensions between Moscow and Washington over Russian military actions in Ukraine and marks the first time the Kremlin has suspended US inspections under the New START Nuclear Weapons Control Treaty.

In declaring a freeze on U.S. inspections, the Russian Foreign Ministry said sanctions, visa restrictions, and other obstacles to Russian flights imposed by the U.S. and its allies meant that Russian military experts were not allowed to visit U.S. nuclear weapons sites. has become virtually impossible to visit. “One sided advantage”

The Biden administration did not have an immediate public reaction to the move. Ankit Panda, a nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, called Russia’s actions “a cynical attempt to put pressure on the United States” imposed by the West against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Talked about penalties.

“They are basically using New START inspections that the US cares about to force Washington’s hand,” said Panda.

Russia closed its skies to 27 EU countries, the UK and Canada after the conflict began in Ukraine in late February, but US inspectors said they faced no such difficulties. Russia said at the time that exceptions would be made for diplomatic missions and deliveries of humanitarian aid.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry claimed the freeze was temporary and allowed by the agreement “in exceptional cases.”

Russia “highly values” the New START, adding that inspections could resume after the issues preventing inspections are resolved.

“Russia is committed to complying with all the provisions of the New START, which we see as an important tool for maintaining international security and stability,” the ministry said, adding that the settlement This will allow all verification mechanisms of the Convention to be fully applied as soon as possible. ”

“After the issue of resuming inspection activities under the treaty is resolved, we will immediately lift the exemption from inspection activities that we have announced,” the ministry said.

The New START Treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits nations to deploying nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 and missiles and bombers to no more than 700, and requires compliance verification procedures. A thorough on-site inspection is expected.

Just days before New START expires in February 2021, Russia and the US have agreed to extend it for another five years.

Security analyst Panda said Russia’s actions also echo the half-century-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York, where the United States and Russia are discussing continued strategic arms cuts. It pointed out.

“At a time when nuclear risks between the two countries are unlikely to abate, it is imperative that the treaty’s inspection procedures be fully restored,” he said. “The pandemic has taken a toll on New START’s inspection efforts, and Moscow’s unfortunate decision will make matters even more dangerous.”

Associated Press