MOSCOW – Russia questioned Washington’s compliance with a key nuclear treaty weeks before President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to hold his first summit with his U.S. counterpart, President Joe Biden.
“The Russian side has concrete and justified complaints about how Washington is implementing New START,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Wednesday.
The number of U.S. strategic launchers and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments exceeds the permitted level of 800 by 101 because Russia cannot verify that 56 Trident submarine launchers, 41 B-52 heavy bombers and four silo launchers have been decommissioned from the arsenal as the U.S. claims, the ministry said.
The U.S. has said it’s in full compliance with the treaty.
The Biden administration agreed to a five-year extension of the treaty, the last one capping the nuclear forces of the former Cold War foes, soon after taking office earlier this year. That marked a reversal of his predecessor President Donald Trump’s insistence on renegotiating its terms, which risked the agreement expiring in February.
The Russian accusations are “fairly strange” because New START allows for the U.S. actions and Russia had ample time in recent years to lodge these complaints, said Alexander Golts, an independent defense expert in Moscow.
“It seems like Russia is more intent on scoring points ahead of the Putin-Biden summit and before new strategic weapons negotiations,” Golts said by phone.