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updated 2:24 PM UTC, May 10, 2017

Comment by the Information and Press Department on the US Department of State’s report on adherence to and compliance with arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament agreements and commitments

On April 12, the US Department of State submitted to Congress its annual Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments. As usual, Washington reported on the United States’ model adherence to and compliance with all its commitments while posing as a self-appointed teacher charged with assessing other countries’ behaviour in this respect.

Even a cursory analysis of the report shows that it is not a serious document that reflects the real state of affairs in arms control and disarmament.

The US Department of State has again showered Russia with unsubstantiated accusations. The assessments provided in the report are judgmental, biased and prejudiced. They are comprised of a combination of speculation, exaggeration, false messages and openly distorted facts. The obvious goal is to create a negative image of Russia in the hope that few readers will take the trouble to analyse the details of the unsubstantiated examples of Russia’s alleged violations. When compared to the real state of affairs, the US Department of State’s assessments present a sad picture of these “expert” assessments.

For a third year running, the report provides absolutely unfounded accusations against Russia, which supposedly is in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. According to the report, Russia “continued to be in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to produce or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.” The United States does not provide objective facts or any other reliable arguments to reiterate these accusations. Therefore, Washington is deliberately trying to create a negative information background related to the INF Treaty in order to discredit Russia.

At the same time, the United States disregards Russian concerns in this respect:

1. The United States continued to test missile targets under its Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) programme, possessing characteristics that are similar to intermediate- and shorter-range missiles. In addition, these tests are also used to further improve  key elements of missile systems that are prohibited under the INF Treaty.

2. The United States continued to increase the production and use of heavy strike UAVs, which clearly comply with the INF Treaty definition of ground-launched cruise missiles.

It should be said that we have pointed to these two obvious violations of the INF Treaty by the United States for the past 15 years, but we have not received any constructive response from our American colleagues.

3. A relatively new and very serious violation of the INF Treaty by the United States was the deployment in Europe of the Mark 41 (Mk 41 VLS) system capable of launching Tomahawk intermediate-range cruise missiles. These vertical launch systems are being delivered to Romania’s Deveselu Air Base and there are plans to build a similar facility in Poland.

We have noted the Pentagon’s numerous statements on preparing military response scenarios that include the potential deployment of the prohibited intermediate- and shorter-range missiles on the Russian border. This amounts to a realistic Pentagon threat rather than an alleged Russian threat to the INF Treaty, the undermining of which can have unpredictable consequences for Europe and the international community as a whole.

We call upon the United States to stop making unsubstantiated statements on Russia and concentrate on meeting its own commitments under the INF Treaty.

Washington’s approach to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is also causing concerns. The US and its non-nuclear allies in NATO continue the practice of training for the use of nuclear weapons as part of the “nuclear sharing” missions, which is in direct violation of Articles I and II of the NPT treaty.

Instead of making propaganda statements on its commitment to further nuclear disarmament, it would make more sense for the US to first redeploy American non-strategic nuclear weapons on their national territory (as Russia did about a quarter of a century ago), to ban their deployment outside the US territory, to liquidate the infrastructure that allows the urgent redeployment of American nuclear weapons in Europe, and certainly to halt any military exercises with the military of non-nuclear NATO nations focused on the potential use of nuclear weapons.

It is also alarming that the US plans to deploy new nuclear aerial bombs with limited power but high precision as part of its unprecedented programme to modernise its nuclear arsenal. It is a very dangerous project that can drop the “threshold” of using nuclear weapons when US nuclear bombs in Europe could become “battlefield weapons”.

It is important to remember that Moscow and Washington gave up this option 25 years ago. The US seems keen to recover this irresponsible practice of balancing on the brink of a nuclear war. The 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) saw the US along with the UK and Canada block the concluding document of the conference, thus demonstrating that consolidating the nuclear non-proliferation regime was not on their priority list. This is particularly unfortunate, considering that the US is a state depositary to the NPT Treaty, and, furthermore, aspires to become a global non-proliferation leader.

Washington’s declared commitment to stronger non-proliferation regime is also contradicted by its inconsistent position on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Back in the mid-1990s, then-President Bill Clinton declared the CTBT treaty the highest priority for the US. Since then, the Americans have made numerous statements on their intention to ratify the CTBT and put it into force shortly. President Obama also made promises to the effect but has failed to make any practical steps in this direction so far.

This year marks twenty years since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was open for signature. The treaty’s destiny still depends on the eight non-member states listed in Annex 8, which must ratify the treaty for it to come into effect.

Washington’s irresponsible position in terms of CTBT ratification is the main obstacle toward making the treaty an effective international legal instrument. Other countries look to Washington. Therefore, the prospects that the CTBT will enter into force are slim.

The unseemly intention of the US Department of State to contest the entirety of Russia’s announcement on Article III of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and thus to doubt the competence and deserved authority of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as the most efficient and successful global structure for disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is surprising. However, the OPCW has no claims against Russia, unlike Washington.

In turn, we would like to advise our US counterparts to abandon their “double standards” in the use of chemical weapons by non-state parties in the Middle East. Washington should itself comply with its obligations under UNSC Resolutions 2118, 2209 and 2235 and provide the Security Council with evidence of the crimes committed by ISIS and other terrorist groups in Iraqi Kurdistan, which US forces found in 2015 and in 2016 at the sites where the extremists had used chemical weapons.

Only the politicised nature and interests in the propaganda campaign against Russia can provide for the content of the section, which “reviews” Russia’s compliance with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BWC). Significantly, only Russia was chosen as the target for meaningless insinuations and fabrications on this issue this year. These actions fit within the slanted information war being used against Russia, when any means to an end is used. Regular attempts to denigrate Russia are used to distract attention from the unseemly role that the US plays within the BWC context.

The reality is that it is the US who seriously damaged the BWC regime by single-handedly ruining the long-lasting multilateral talks on the creation of the supplementary BWC protocol that were about to come to an end. The microbiological activity of the member states under the developed protocol would have been subject to on-site inspections by an independent authority – the Technical Secretariat. Having derailed the protocol, the US now complains of having no possibility to verify compliance with the BWC. However, it has nobody to blame but itself for this, including the fact that it has blocked any constructive attempts to step up specific work within the framework of the BWC since 2001.

Against this background, the international community is particularly concerned about the Pentagon’s dangerous microbiological activities. We will cite only two most alarming examples.

First, the US Department of Defense has been mailing live anthrax spores all over the world for years. Far from being accidental, this occurred on 195 occasions and reached 12 different countries. As a result, not only nescient US citizens but also populations in other countries were exposed to fatal danger. Until now, the scale of these violations has not been cleared up, including the real purpose of the Defense Department’s spore-producing “industrial facilities” and the reason for distributing them to US military bases overseas.

Second, the continuous expansion of the Defense Department’s overseas military biological infrastructure. These facilities have sprung up in many countries, and in recent years they are being created increasingly closer to Russian borders. Military microbiologists and doctors must deal with highly infectious disease agents for “humanitarian purposes,” but one can only guess as to the real scale of their activities because it is fully classified. For example, the US Department of Defense has built a high-level biosafety laboratory in the village of Alekseyevka near Tbilisi to be used for its own private purposes. To alleviate concerns, they declared that the facility was being handed over to Georgia, while a US army medical research unit deployed there was just a “tenant.”

While accusing developing countries of a lack of progress in implementing the BWC at the national level, including failure to approve relevant legislation, the US has consciously and consistently kept its own laws, which run counter to its international commitments. These include, in particular, reserving the right, in the 1925 Geneva Protocol, to retaliate with chemical or toxin weapons and presidential Executive Order 11850 enabling US armed forces to use “nonlethal” chemical or toxin weapons as warfare agents. Particularly flagrant is applying the 2001 Patriot Act to actually endorse the development of biological weapons with governmental assent. In our opinion, the “biological” section in this document must be repealed immediately.

As in the past, the report’s section dedicated to the Treaty on Open Skies (OST) reproduces a set of stereotyped allegations accusing Russia of violating the treaty. We have repeatedly provided exhaustive replies to the Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC) as well as in our responses to the State Department’s previous reports of this kind.

With regard to Russia restricting the use of its airspace, we reiterate that the altitude restrictions for aircraft over the Moscow and Chechen no-fly zones are due to flight safety requirements (given the lack of continuous radar monitoring at lower altitudes).

The maximal range restriction for flights over the Kaliningrad Region was introduced pursuant to relevant OST clauses and the OSCC resolution. This routine provides for the same monitoring efficiency as over the rest of the Russian Federation and some neighbouring countries (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia).

Restrictions for OST flights near the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been introduced in keeping with the treaty that says that observation flights shall be pursued not closer than 10 km from a non-state party’s border. The two independent states, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, are not parties to the OST.      

Another US complaint concerns Russia’s alleged refusal “to allow effective observation of its entire territory” under the Treaty on Open Skies (OST). However, under the treaty, observation flights shall take priority over any regular air traffic, that is, regular commercial flights.

In this connection, we would like to point to what the authors of the US report do not reveal – violations of treaty obligations by the United States and its NATO allies.

In the 12 years since the OST came into effect, the United States has not complied with its provision under which the member states are to provide special procedures for observation flights over its islands and other territories that are separated from the mainland territory. Therefore, a considerable portion of US national territory has been closed to observation for a long time in gross violation of the treaty. Washington accommodated our requests only in late 2015.

The United States has refused to allow the observation of its territory by Russian An-30B surveillance aircraft with digital equipment in violation of the member states’ right to make observation flights. At the same time, Washington organised a media campaign on the threat allegedly posed to US national security from Russian observation flights made by a surveillance aircraft equipped with digital cameras. According to its latest report, it was the United States that initiated “the Treaty’s transition from film to digital optical sensors.”

The United States effusively supported Georgia’s destructive decision to refuse to comply with its treaty obligations in its relations with Russia. This has created a dangerous precedent of selective compliance with this multilateral treaty. By the way, the United States has not honoured its commitment to cover Georgia’s part of payment due for their joint observation flight over the Russian territory made in 2008.

The United States, while assuming the right to judge other countries’ actions, continues to justify the violations of the OST by its NATO allies. Instead of condemning Turkey’s decision to close a considerable portion of its south-eastern territories to observation flights in violation of the treaty, Washington has cynically announced its satisfaction with Turkey’s compliance with the treaty. It appears that the policy of double standards has long become the norm for our American colleagues.

As for the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), there is no point in speaking about it. The United States and its NATO allies have created conditions under which the viability of the CFE Treaty was seriously undermined, inevitably leading to its suspension by Russia in 2007. Since then, the erosion and weakening of the conventional arms regime in Europe continued unabated.

Moreover, the United States and NATO have opted for a policy of deterrence toward Russia and to change the balance of forces in Europe in their favour by expanding the bloc and moving its military infrastructure further east and, most recently, by deploying their armed forces in direct proximity to the Russian border.

We are convinced that the elaboration of a new regime of conventional arms control in Europe (CACE) based on the principles of equal and indivisible security and the balanced rights and obligations of the sides must be considered in conjunction with NATO’s refusing to further strengthen its deterrence measures against Russia and thereby restoring an adequate level of trust and normal relations with Russia, including in military cooperation.

These past few years, the US Department of State’s reports routinely accuse Russia of “selective implementation of some provisions of VD11 [2011 Vienna Document on politically binding confidence and security-building measures] and the resultant loss of transparency about Russian military activities.” It should be said, however, that no “unusual military activities” or any activities exceeding VD11 thresholds have been registered during the three inspections conducted by Ukraine, the Netherlands and Turkey in Russia’s Southern Military District in the regions bordering Ukraine. Kiev’s claims that Russia violated the provisions of the Vienna Document were not supplemented with any serious arguments, to which we pointed in our replies to our Ukrainian colleagues.

By the way, Kiev did not implement its commitments under the Vienna Document with regard to the military activities of its armed forces in Donbass in 2014 or 2015. But the report of the US State Department has omitted to mention this.

In 2015, Russia voluntarily sent four notifications to OSCE member states, including the United States, citing the detailed parameters of the surprise military and aviation drills that were held in several military districts. Of course, these notifications included the forces that fall within the provisions of the Vienna Document.

In reply to reproaching us for our failure to provide information about Russian military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, we would like to note that these sovereign states are not OSCE members and are therefore not included in the zone of confidence-building measures, as stipulated by the Vienna Document 2011. The US experts who drafted this section of the State Department report certainly know this. They also know that Russia submits this information in line with another OSCE document, the Global Exchange of Military Information. By the way, Turkey, a US ally, is doing the same with regard to its forces in Northern Cyprus while Washington does not object.

We would like to say a few words about the Russian BRM-1K armoured vehicle mentioned in the US report that reproaches Russia for concealing this data. In terms of its specifications, this vehicle does not fit into any military equipment category on which information is to be submitted under the Vienna Document 2011. Indicatively, the United States which has failed to resolve this issue for many years under the CFE Treaty is now trying to make it part of the Vienna Document 2011.

It appears that the authors of the report, who have not found any specific provisions that would allow them to implicate Russia, are trying groundlessly to accuse Russia of violating the principle of the non-use of force or the threat to use force with regard to Ukraine. No evidence has been provided. At the same time, they keep silent about many real violations of the document by the United States itself.

We would like to note that Washington is using the Vienna Document for its own political goals. In 2015, the United States deliberately included the territory of Crimea in the areas earmarked for inspections as part of its bilateral agreements with Ukraine and its requests to hold inspections in Ukraine. This was done to create a conflict situation and to launch another round of OSCE discussions. Naturally, we provided a well thought-out and legally sound reply to these “advances.”

A Russian inspection group was taken to a US military camp while conducting an inspection in Bulgaria. Russian inspectors discovered several dozen tanks, armoured vehicles and howitzers, other motor vehicles, combat engineer and other equipment from US Marine Corps units that were not declared at the briefing. During the inspection, the inspection team was not allowed to leave its vehicle. A similar situation took place during an inspection of a US Army unit in Spain. Washington has clearly violated the Vienna Document on many occasions.

Our review of the State Department report leads to un-consoling conclusions. Instead of engaging in painstaking work to resolve existing disagreements within the appropriate formats and with the participation of all states, the United States still prefers to repeat politically motivated, biased and lopsided assessments of fulfilling various provisions of arms control treaties and agreements by other states with certain variations year after year, without taking the trouble to search for arguments and facts.

Russia advocates a civilised, detailed and constructive discussion of issues arising during the implementation of the state’s obligations in arms control and non-proliferation at the negotiating table.

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