(MOSCOW) — Russia challenged U.S. compliance with a key nuclear arms control treaty Monday and warned that the Trump administration’s new nuclear strategy lowers the threshold for using atomic weapons.
The dire assessment came as Moscow said it has met its own requirements under the New START agreement that was signed in 2010 and entered into force a year later. It restricts both the U.S. and Russia to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads on a maximum of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers. The deadline to verify both countries’ compliance was Monday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it now has 527 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers. It gave a tally of 1,444 strategic nuclear warheads. The U.S. reported it has been in compliance with the limits since August.
Russia acknowledged the U.S. position on meeting the targets, but voiced concern about the U.S. reconfiguring some submarines and bombers to carry conventional weapons. The Foreign Ministry said it doesn’t have a way to confirm the reconfigured hardware was rendered incapable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Washington also “arbitrarily converted” some underground missile launch sites into training facilities, which wasn’t spelled out in the treaty, the ministry said. It urged the U.S. work with Russia to resolve such matters.
The U.S. State Department insisted America was fully adhering to the deal.
“To meet the central limits of the treaty, the United States developed and utilized conversion procedures in full compliance with its treaty obligations,” it said, adding it would cooperate with Russia to “address technical questions and issues related to the ongoing implementation of New START.”
Russia-U.S. ties have been miserable for several years, but nuclear weapons reduction has been a strong point. The former Cold War foes have clashed most notably over Russia’s conduct in Ukraine, the Syrian civil war and allegations Moscow meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Trump administration’s pivot to a new nuclear strategy could now affect arms control cooperation.