US to withhold nuclear weapons data from Russia after Moscow’s treaty suspension

Russian President Vladimir Putin has suspended Moscow’s participation in the New Start nuclear arms treaty. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - The United States has told Russia it will withhold some data on its nuclear forces, a White House spokesman said on Tuesday, calling this a response to Moscow’s suspending participation in the New Start nuclear arms treaty.

While Russian President Vladimir Putin has not formally withdrawn from the treaty, which limits the two sides’ deployed strategic nuclear arsenals, his Feb 21 suspension further imperils the last remaining pillar of arms control between the US and Russia.

Between the two of them, the US and Russia hold nearly 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear warheads - enough to destroy the planet many times over.

“Under international law, the United States has the right to respond to Russia’s breaches of the New Start Treaty by taking proportionate and reversible countermeasures in order to induce Russia to return to compliance with its obligations,” a spokesman for the National Security Council said.

“That means that because Russia’s claimed suspension of the New Start Treaty is legally invalid, the US is legally permitted to withhold our biannual data update in response to Russia’s breaches,” the spokesman added.

The US had offered to keep mutual exchanges of data with the Russians but they refused, a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity, saying the US hoped to resume the information exchanges in future.

Signed in 2010 and due to expire in 2026, the New Start treaty caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the countries can deploy.

Under its terms, Moscow and Washington may deploy no more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads and 700 land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them.

Under the treaty’s “Biannual Data Exchanges,” each provides a declaration of deployed strategic delivery vehicles, launchers and warheads, including a breakdown of warhead numbers deployed across the three types of delivery vehicles - air, sea and land-based.

Each also breaks down how many strategic delivery vehicles and warheads are deployed at each declared base.

A State Department spokesman said that “aside from the biannual data exchange, the US continues to provide all required notifications under the New Start Treaty.” REUTERS

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