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Russia says monitoring US nuclear arms upgrade for compliance with New START treaty

A US Air Force missile maintenance team removes the upper section of an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead in an undated USAF photo at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. (Photo by Reuters)

Russia says it is closely monitoring the United States’ nuclear modernization activities to ensure their compliance with the New START nuclear arms control treaty, amid concerns over Washington’s implementation of the key accord.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova made the remarks on Wednesday, adding that upgrading nuclear armaments does not contradict Washington’s commitments under New START as long as they are carried out within the confines of the treaty.

“The New START does not prohibit the parties from upgrading and replacing their strategic offensive arms, given that they comply with all the quantitative limits and some other restrictions they stipulated in this treaty,” Zakharova said.

“The fact that Washington is carrying out such modernization with regard to its nuclear armaments and their servicing sector does not contradict the US’ international commitments. Nevertheless, we are undoubtedly closely watching US efforts in this sphere, including the aspect of its larger financing, first of all, to make sure that Washington’s measures comply with the goal of maintaining strategic stability," she added.

However, she said, Russia has “concrete and justified complaints” about how the US is implementing the treaty, regarding its attempts “to re-equip some strategic offensive arms’ means.”

“This re-equipping was carried out in a way that does not allow us to be convinced that these means have lost their ability to be used for employing nuclear weapons, and this is a clear requirement of the treaty,” Zakharova said.

“We are asking that the US side should strictly comply with all the provisions of the New START Treaty and this work will be continued.,” she added.

The comments came after Russia accused the United States of exceeding the agreed limit on the number of American launchers and bombers.

In a statement released on Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said 56 US launchers and 41 heavy bombers had been removed from Washington's declared arsenal, and that Moscow was unable to confirm whether they were no longer nuclear-capable.

The ministry also said four American underground missile silos had been removed from the count.

Russia has in the past raised similar concerns over Washington’s violation of the strategic arms control treaty.

A spokesman for the US State Department rejected the Russian statement and claimed that Washington was in “full compliance” with the treaty obligations.

Russia leveled the accusation against the US just over a fortnight before President Vladimir Putin is due to hold his first face-to-face meeting with his US counterpart Joe Biden in the Swiss city of Geneva.

New START was inked between Washington and Moscow in 2010 under Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, the then presidents of the US and Russia.

Moscow and Washington agreed to extend the New START treaty earlier this year.

The treaty allows the two states to have no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. It also envisages a strict compliance verification process.

Russia had long called for extending the treaty — which was due to expire on February 5 — the way it is, but the administration of former US president Donald Trump only entered talks on the matter last year and conditioned the extension on a list of demands.

The negotiations then hit a stalemate as the two sides failed to hammer out differences.

New START is the last remaining nonproliferation deal between Russia and the US, after the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), another key arms control treaty, expired in August 2019.

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