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Russia freezes US inspections of its nuclear arsenal under New START

A Russian RS-28 Sarmat (Satan II) intercontinental ballistic missile at the Plesetsk cosmodrome. (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia has informed the United States of a freeze on U.S. inspections of its nuclear weapons under the New START arms control treaty, claiming Western sanctions have hampered similar inspections of U.S. facilities by Russian monitors.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the sanctions on Russian flights imposed by the United States and its allies over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine along with visa restrictions and other obstacles have effectively made it impossible for Russian military experts to visit U.S. nuclear weapons sites.

It said the conditions “create unilateral advantages for the United States and effectively deprive the Russian Federation of the right to conduct inspections on American territory.”

The United States had no immediate response to the move.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the freeze is temporary and allowed under the pact “in exceptional cases.”

It noted that Russia “highly values” the New START treaty and said it remains “fully committed” to complying with all its provisions.

It also said that after the problems are resolved Russia will “immediately lift the exemptions from inspection activities that we have announced.”

The ministry also urged a “thorough study of all existing problems in this area, the successful settlement of which would allow a return to full-scale application as soon as possible of all verification mechanisms of the treaty.”

The New START treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.

Just days before the New START was due to expire in February 2021, Russia and the United States agreed to extend it for another five years.