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
Comment by the Information and Press Department of the MFA of Russia on the US Department of State 2015 Report on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments
On April 12, the US Department of State published its annual Report to the Congress on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments in 2015. Same as before, Washington did not limit itself to presenting its own “exemplary” compliance with all its treaty obligations but acted also as a “mentor” who deemed itself entitled to assess the corresponding “progress” of other States.
Even a quick analysis of the Report shows that it can hardly be taken as a serious document that qualifies for portraying the real situation in arms control and non-proliferation.
Without taking the trouble to provide any evidence, the US Department of State actually slid into unsubstantiated accusations against Russia. The assessments provided in the report are blatantly judgmental, biased and prejudiced. They are comprised of an extravagant combination of speculations, exaggerations, assumptions as well as blatantly false messages and deliberately distorted facts. The obvious goal is to create a negative image of Russia in the hope that few readers will make an effort to analyze the details of the unsupported examples of Russia’s alleged “violations”. When compared to the real state of affairs, the US Department of State “assessments”, unfortunately, bring about thoughts about these regrettable “expert evaluation.”
For the third year in a row, the Report renders absolutely unfounded accusations of Russia supposedly violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The Report states that Russia produces and tests ground‑launched cruise missiles with a range of 500 km to 5,500 km and their associated launchers. According to all indications the American side does not have any objective evidence neither has it any weighty arguments to substantiate these allegations made against Russia. Washington deliberately creates a negative information backdrop for the INF Treaty in an attempt to discredit Russia.
Whereas the following Russian concerns are disregarded,
(1) The United States continues its tests in the interests of missile defense using target missiles which have characteristics similar to those of intermediate- and shorter-range ballistic missiles (these tests are used, inter alia, to further improve the key elements of Treaty-prohibited missile systems);
(2) The United States continues to increase production and use of heavy attack UAVs that clearly fall under the INF Treaty definition of ground‑launched cruise missiles;
(It should be noted that we have been pointing to our American colleagues at these two obvious violations of the INF Treaty by the United States for as long as a decade and a half. There has not been so far any constructive feedback.)
(3) A relatively new and rather serious violation of the INF Treaty was the deployment in Europe of the Mk 41 systems capable of launching Tomahawk intermediate-range cruise missiles. These vertical launch systems are being installed today at the Deveselu missile defense base in Romania, and the construction of a similar facility in Poland is next in turn.
What stands out are the persisting statements of Pentagon authorities on thrashing out options of military response, up to eventual deployment of Treaty-prohibited intermediate- and shorter-range missiles close to the Russian borders. This exposes a real (coming from Pentagon) rather than imaginary (coming from Russia) threat of undermining the INF regime, which can have unpredictable consequences for Europe and for the international community as a whole.
We call upon the United States to stop throwing out innuendoes against Russia and to focus instead on complying with its own INF obligations.
Washington’s approach to compliance with its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is still of great concern. The US and its non-nuclear NATO allies continue their nuclear skill training as part of the so-called “nuclear sharing”. This is a serious violation of Articles I and II of the NPT.
Instead of making publicity statements on the US commitment to making further steps in nuclear disarmament, it would be reasonable first to bring back all American non-strategic nuclear weapons to the national territory (as Russia did about a quarter-century ago), introduce a ban on their deployment outside the national territory, eliminate all facilities necessary to redeploy urgently the US nuclear weapons in Europe, and certainly abandon any nuclear exercises (drills) for the personnel of the armed forces from non-nuclear NATO States.
It is seriously alarming that, as part of its unprecedented nuclear arsenal modernization programme, the US is planning to deploy in Europe new nuclear aerial bombs of lower yield but higher precision. This is a very dangerous project that can significantly lower the “threshold” of nuclear weapons use when US nuclear bombs in Europe could turn into “battlefield weapons”. It is important to remember that Moscow and Washington turned down this option 25 years ago. Today, the US seems keen to recover its previous irresponsible practice of balancing on the brink of nuclear war.
At the 2015 NPT Review Conference the US along with the UK and Canada blocked the concluding document of the Conference, thus demonstrating that strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime was not on their priority list. This is particularly unfortunate, considering that the US is a depositary state for the NPT, and, furthermore, aspires to become a global non-proliferation leader.
Washington’s declared commitment to stronger non-proliferation regime is also obviously contradicted by its inconsistent position on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
As far as in the mid-1990s President Bill Clinton declared the CTBT the “No.1 priority” for the US. Since then, the Americans have made numerous statements on their intention to ratify the CTBT and pursue its early entry into force. 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 lies in hands of those eight Member States listed in Annex 2 whose ratification is required for its entry into force.
Washington’s irresponsible position in terms of CTBT ratification is the main obstacle toward making the Treaty an effective international legal instrument. Other countries also act looking out for Washington. Therefore, the prospects that the CTBT will enter into force are not within view.
The indecent 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 challenge the adequacy and deserved authority of the OPCW as the most efficient and successful global structure for disarmament and WMD nonproliferation never fails to amaze. 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 actors in the Middle East. Washington itself should comply with its obligations under UNSC Resolutions 2118, 2209 and 2235, and share with the Security Council the evidence of crimes committed by ISIS and other terrorist groups in Iraqi Kurdistan, which the US forces obtained in 2015-2016 directly at the sites where the extremists had used toxic agents.
Only the politicization and interest in propaganda campaign against Russia can explicate the content of the section that “analyzes” Russia’s compliance with the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BWC). It is illustrative that this year only Russia was chosen as a target of vain insinuations and figments in this area. It fits well within the style of information warfare unleashed against Russia, when, as the saying goes, no holds barred. The subsequent attempts to denigrate Russia are aimed at distracting attention from the abominable role that the US plays within the BWC context.
The facts on the ground are that the US itself seriously damaged the BWC regime by ruining at its sole discretion the long-lasting multilateral talks aimed at elaborating the additional Protocol to the BWC, which were approaching to an end. According to the then-drafted Protocol the microbiological activity of the States Parties 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 apparently no possibility to verify the compliance with the BWC. It has nobody to blame but itself for this, including for the fact that it has been blocking any constructive attempts to step up a substantive work within the framework of BWC since 2001.
Against this background, the international community is particularly concerned about the Pentagon’s dangerous microbiological activities. We shall give only two most alarming examples.
First, the years long mailing of live anthrax spores by the US Department of Defense all over the world. Far from being accidental, this mailing occurred on 195 occasions and reached 12 States all over the world. As a result, not only nescient US citizens but also populations in other countries were exposed to a fatal danger of contamination. Until now, the scale of these violations has not been established, including the real purpose of the US Defense Department’s “manufacturing sites” where spores have been developed and the true objectives of their forwarding to the US military facilities overseas.
Second, the continuous expansion of overseas military biological infrastructure of the US Defense Department. The corresponding facilities have sprung up in many countries, and in recent years they are being created increasingly closer to the Russian borders. There is no question of the “humanitarian orientation” of work of such microbiologists and doctors in uniform, who deal with highly contagious disease agents, but one can only guess as to the real subject of their activity because the latter is fully classified. For example, the US Department of Defense has built a high-level biological isolation laboratory in the village of Alekseyevka near Tbilisi to be used for its own, behind-the-scene purposes. It was declared for form’s sake that the facility was 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 by approving relevant legislation, the US consciously and consistently keeps its own laws that run counter to its international commitments. These include, in particular, the reservation to the 1925 Geneva Protocol with regard to the right to use chemical or toxin weapons and the US President’s Executive Order 11850 that enables the US armed forces to use “nonlethal” chemical and toxin weapons as warfare agents. Particularly flagrant is the implementation of the 2001 Patriot Act that actually endorses the development of biological weapons with consent of the US Government. In our opinion, the “biological” section of this document must be repealed immediately.
It is not for the first year that the Report’s section dedicated to the Treaty on Open Skies (OST) reproduces a set of cut-and -dried allegations accusing Russia of non-compliance with Treaty. We have repeatedly provided exhaustive replies to such allegations in the Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC) and in our responses to previous State Department’s reports of this kind.
With regard to Russia restricting the use of its airspace, we reiterate that the altitude limitation for aircraft flying over Moscow and Chechen prohibited areas are due to flight safety requirements (given the absence of continuous radar monitoring at lower altitudes).
The limits of the maximum flying distance over the Kaliningrad Oblast were introduced pursuant to the relevant OST provisions and OSCC decision. Such procedure provides for the same efficiency of observation as during flights over the rest of the territory of the Russian Federation and over the territories of adjacent States (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia).
The restrictions for Open Skies flights near the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been introduced in accordance with the Treaty that states that observation flights shall be allowed up to ten kilometers from the border with an adjacent State that is not a State Party. The independent States of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not Parties to the OST.
Another US claim concerns Russia’s alleged refusal to ensure priority status for Open Skies flights. However, under the Treaty, observation flights shall take priority over any regular air traffic, that is, regular commercial flights.
Now we would like to dwell on what the authors of the US Report conceal, i.e. violations of the Open Skies Treaty by the United States and its NATO allies.
For 12 years of the operation of the Treaty the United States has been disregarding its provisions on providing special procedures for observation of US island territories and possessions. Therefore, a considerable portion of the US territory has been inaccessible for observation for a long time in gross violation of the fundamentals of the Treaty. Washington did not make advances to accommodate Russian requests till the end of 2015.
The United States practically closed its territory for observation by Russian AN‑30B aircraft with digital sensors in violation of the States Parties’ right to conduct observation flights. At the same time, Washington launched a media campaign blowing up an argument on the allegedly emerging threat to the US national security in case of flights being conducted by the Russian Open Skies aircraft with digital sensors onboard. However, it is admitted in the Report that the US itself initiated the transition to digital technologies within the OST.
The United States acted demonstratively when supporting Georgia’s decision, which was destructive for the fundamentals of the Treaty, to cease the implementation of its OST obligations with regard to Russia and thus set up a precedent of selective implementation of this multilateral document. By the way, although promised, the United States has not secured since 2008 the payment of Georgia’s debt due for their joint observation flight over the Russian territory.
Having assumed to itself the right to pass judgments on the acts of other States, the American side persistently justifies the violations of the Treaty obligations by its NATO allies. Thus instead of condemning Turkey’s closure to observation of a considerable portion of its south-eastern territories in contradiction to the very basics of the Treaty, Washington cynically stated that it was satisfied with the way Turkey complied 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 sense to come back to this issue. It should be reminded that the United States itself and its NATO allies created conditions that undermined the viability of the CFE Treaty and made inevitable its suspension by Russia in 2007. Since then, the erosion and weakening of the conventional arms control regime in Europe have only aggravated.
Moreover, the United States and NATO have opted for a policy of “deterring” Russia and changing the balance of forces on the European continent in their favour by expanding the alliance and moving its military infrastructure further east and, most recently, by deploying their troops in close proximity to the Russian borders.
We are convinced that the prospects for elaborating a new conventional arms control regime in Europe based on the principles of equal and indivisible security and the balance of rights and obligations of the parties should be considered in conjunction with NATO’s renouncing from strengthening its military “deterrence” measures against Russia and thereby restoring an adequate level of trust and normal relations with the Russian Federation, including in military cooperation.
These past few years, the US Department of State’s reports routinely accuse Russia of “selective implementation” and “insufficient transparency” with regard to the Vienna Document 2011 on Confidence and Security-Building Measures. It should be stated, however, that neither “unusual or unscheduled military activities” nor exceeding thresholds of notified armed forces activities have been registered in the course of the three inspections conducted by Ukraine, the Netherlands and Turkey in the Southern Military District in the regions bordering Ukraine. Kiev’s attempts to blame Russia of non-compliance with certain provisions of the Vienna Document were not supported by any serious arguments, to which we pointed in our replies to the Ukrainian side.
By the way, Kiev did not implement its own commitments under the Vienna Document with regard to the military activities of its armed forces in Donbass both in 2014 and 2015. But the Report of the US State Department has omitted to mention this.
In 2015, Russia voluntarily sent four notifications to the OSCE participating States, including the United States, citing the detailed parameters of unscheduled military and aviation inspections that were conducted in several military districts. Of course, these notifications included the forces that fall within the provisions of the Vienna Document.
As for reproaching Russia for non-provision of information on military bases of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation located in the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, we note that these sovereign States are not participants to the OSCE and are, therefore, not included in the zone of confidence-building measures, as it is defined by the Vienna Document 2011. The US experts who drafted this section of the State Department’s Report are certainly well aware of this. They also know for sure that Russia submits this information in line with another OSCE instrument, 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. This does not provoke any objections in Washington.
A few words about the Russian BRM-1K armoured vehicle mentioned in the US Report (certainly reproaching Russia for concealing this data). In terms of its technical specifications, this vehicle does not fit into any military equipment category on which information is to be submitted under the Vienna Document 2011. It is revealing that the United States which has failed to resolve this issue for many years within the CFE Treaty is now trying “to drag” it into the VD-2011.
It appears that the authors of the Report, who have not found any specific provisions that would allow them to really “catch” Russia, are trying groundlessly to accuse it of violating the principle of non-use of force or threat of force with regard to Ukraine. No evidence has been provided. At the same time, they “humbly” keep quiet about numerous real violations of that principle by the United States itself.
We note that the platform of the Vienna Document is used by Washington to solve political tasks. For example, in 2015, the United States in their requests for inspections as part of its bilateral agreements with Ukraine deliberately included the territory of Crimea in the areas to be inspected. This was done to create a conflict situation and to launch another spiral of discussions in the OSCE. Naturally, we provided a well‑considered and legally sound reply to such “endeavors.”
During an inspection on the territory of Bulgaria the Russian inspection team was taken to a military camp where the US armed forces units were located. Russian inspectors discovered several dozen tanks, armoured vehicles and howitzers, numerous motor vehicles, engineer and other equipment that belonged to the US Marine Corps units and were not declared at the briefing. During the inspection in the military camp, the inspection team was not allowed to leave its vehicle. A similar situation took place during an inspection of a US Army unit located in Spain. This means that improper implementation by Washington of the Vienna Document is not one-of-a-kind fact.
Our review of the State Department’s Report leads to disappointing conclusions. Instead of engaging into a consistent thorough work to settle the existing divergences within the appropriate formats and with the participation of all interested States, the United States still prefers to repeat with certain variations year after year the politically motivated and lopsided assessments of implementation of provisions of arms control treaties and agreements by other States, without taking the trouble to search for arguments and facts.
Russia stands for a civilized, substantive and constructive discussion at the negotiating table of issues arising during the implementation by States of their obligations in the area of arms control and non-proliferation.
We call our American colleagues for engaging in such a work.