Russian arms control violations and other malign activities are eroding the confidence and trust required to extend a critical nuclear agreement between Washington and Moscow that expires in 2021, U.S. officials told lawmakers on Tuesday.
“Russia continues to violate a series of arms control obligations that undermine the trust of the United States can place in treaties, including some that have served U.S. and allied security interests for years,” Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Andrea Thomson said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“The bottom line is that arms control with Russia is troubled because the Russian Federation apparently believes it need only abide by the agreements that suit it,” Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy David Trachtenberg said.
Negotiated by the former Obama administration, the New START treaty has limited America’s and Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenals since going into effect in 2011. U.S. officials said discussions have been held with their Russian counterparts on possibly extending or renegotiating the 10-year pact, but that Russian violations of an earlier accord between the United States and the former Soviet Union are a sticking point.
“Russia has persisted in its violation of the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] treaty through its … ground missile program,” Thompson said. “This administration has utilized diplomatic, economic, and military measures to pressure Russia to return to compliance. The lack of any meaningful steps by Russia to do so diminishes our hope that it wants to preserve the INF treaty.”
Russia also accuses the United States of INF treaty violations. By contrast, both sides are believed to be adhering to New START’s provisions.
Asked whether the United States would extend New START, renegotiate the pact, or allow it to expire, Thompson said, “No decision has been made at this time.”
Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho applauded the Trump administration’s skepticism about Moscow’s intentions and apparent willingness to walk away from New START.