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Russia ‘Temporarily’ Blocks Nuclear Weapons Inspections

Russia announced Monday it will “temporarily” suspend U.S. inspections of nuclear weapons sites allowed under a 2011 bilateral treaty that aims to check the U.S.-Russia arms race as far back as the Cold War.

U.S. officials wanted to resume two-way inspections shortly under the Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty), after inspections initially ceased in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported. Russia said travel restrictions placed by the U.S. in retaliation for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prevent Russian teams from resuming travel to U.S. nuclear facilities, necessitating a “temporary” exemption.

“Our goal is to bring an end to this unacceptable situation and ensure the functioning of all mechanisms in the Treaty in strict conformity with the principles of parity and equality of the parties, as was implied when it was agreed upon and entered into force,” the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “At present, these principles are not being observed.”

Moscow is committed to honoring the provisions of New START, according to the foreign ministry. Inspections could resume after problems with implementation of the treaty, including COVID-19 and U.S. countermeasures to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

“The United States is committed to implementation of the New START Treaty, but we keep discussions between the parties concerning treaty implementation confidential,” a spokesperson from the State Department told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

President Joe Biden pressed the Kremlin on Aug. 1 to begin discussions on extending the agreement on New START at the outset of an ongoing international conference to promote nuclear non-proliferation.

“Today, my administration is ready to expeditiously negotiate a new arms control framework to replace New START when it expires in 2026,” Biden said. “But negotiation requires a willing partner operating in good faith.”

He did not specify what specific actions Russia should take to regain U.S. faith.

Russia immediately denied that the U.S. had reached out to discuss an extension of the treaty, Reuters reported. The Kremlin later said that time would run out soon to begin negotiations on the treaty, which are likely to be difficult and protracted, according to Reuters.

Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a 5-year extension of the treaty when Biden took office in January 2021.

New START limits both sides to 1,550 nuclear warheads on 700 deployed bombers and ballistic missiles, including long-range missiles that can reach the U.S., and 800 launchers. It also provides for 18 mutual on-site inspections of sites equipped with nuclear weapons systems.

The Biden administration halted broader discussions on arms control and global stability in February after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the WSJ reported.

Russia’s decision comes as International Atomic Energy Agency leader Rafael Grossi warned at the 10th Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference that shelling near the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzya nuclear plant in Ukraine, still operated by Ukrainian workers, has created a risk of nuclear disaster.

The Russian foreign ministry and the White House did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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