Russia accuses US of ‘provocative’ weapons inspection move

MOSCOW: Moscow accused the United States on Tuesday (Aug 9) of “unreasonable and unnecessary escalation” in announcing an inspection on Russian territory under the New START nuclear arms reduction pact, knowing that it would not let Russia carry out reciprocal inspections.

Russia had said on Monday that it would not allow its weapons to be inspected under the treaty for the time being because of travel restrictions imposed by Washington and its allies.

In comments released by the foreign ministry, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the US announcement – delivered to Moscow while a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference was getting under way – had been the trigger for Russia to withdraw its cooperation.

“In the current circumstances, such a move looked like an outright provocation,” Ryabkov said.

He said Russia had believed the American side wanted to work out a way to maintain two-way verification efforts despite the difficulties created by US sanctions and travel restrictions imposed in response to Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, in Washington, apparently they thought otherwise and moved to an unreasonable and unnecessary escalation,” he said. “They tried to confront us with a ‘fait accompli’ and conduct an inspection without prior notice.”

The New START Treaty, which took effect in 2011, caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia can deploy, and the deployment of land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them. It also provides for inspections to ensure both sides are complying.

US President Joe Biden said on Aug 1 his administration was ready to “expeditiously” negotiate a framework to replace New START, which is due to expire in 2026, if Moscow demonstrated its willingness to resume work on nuclear arms control.