On January 31, the United States accused Russia of violating the Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty (START-3). U.S. State Department spokesman said that Russia’s failure to participate in inspection efforts inhibits the U.S. from exercising essential rights under the treaty and affects the viability of US-Russian nuclear weapons control.
The United States and the Russian Federation are required to conduct reciprocal inspections of nuclear installations on each other’s territory to ensure that no side deploys more nuclear warheads or their delivery systems (launchers, submarines, and aircraft) than agreed upon.
The United States has suggested that Moscow has a “clear path” to return to compliance and permit inspections and that this road is “well-defined.” In addition, the State Department representative said that the United States remains willing to collaborate with Russia to execute START-3 properly.
In 2026, Russia threatens to withdraw from START-3
On February 5, 2011, START-3 (known as New START) came into force. It reduces deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 units, intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine ballistic missiles, and heavy bomber ballistic missiles to 700 units, and deployed and non-deployed launchers to 800 units. It is the last remaining element in the nuclear arms control treaty system between the United States and Russia, which control over 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
To ensure compliance with these agreements, the parties conducted 328 inspections of each other’s nuclear plants between 2011 and 2020. Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, no inspections were conducted in 2020 and 2021 by mutual consent. Biden and Putin renewed the pact until 2026 in February 2021. Moscow blocked U.S. inspections of its nuclear sites in August 2022, citing travel restrictions the United States and its allies imposed in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Cairo was scheduled to host a meeting of the bilateral consultative commission on START-3 at the end of 2022. However, Russia unilaterally cancelled the meeting, pledging to reschedule it later, which it has yet to do. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated at the end of January that Russia was prepared to withdraw from the pact in 2026.