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11 June 201511:58

Comment by the Information and Press Department on the US State Department’s Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments

1159-11-06-2015

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On June 5, the US Department of State published its 2015 Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments.Apart from writing about the United States’ adherence to its obligations, the report provides assessments of adherence to international agreements by other countries. This includes complaints about the Russian Federation over the alleged violations of its obligations under several international agreements.

We note that the United States continues to act as the supreme certifier who has assumed the right to give the other countries marks for their compliance with their commitments under arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament agreements.

It is obvious that such documents are primarily designed to service Washington’s political interests and are therefore openly subjective, prejudiced and biased. These documents are noted for numerous speculations, exaggerations, forced arguments, false messages and distortions.Considering this, the 2015 report, just as all the previous reports, can hardly be described as serious documents that reflect the real state of affairs in the sphere of non-proliferation and arms control.

We point out that the United States used this report to again refer to Russia’s alleged occupation and annexation of Crimea and provocations against Ukrainein violation of its agreements under the Vienna Document 2011 (VD11) adopted by the participating states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). This formula has nothing to do with reality and turns the matter around.

Crimea’s return to the Russian Federation was completed in strict compliance with international law as a result of the free expression of will by the residents of the peninsula, when over 96 per cent of the people voted for reunification with Russia.

As for the alleged Russian provocations against Ukraine, these are completely ungrounded states that are only preventing the international community from understanding the real causes of the Ukrainian crisis. It is all the more strange that these allegations are made by a country that never fails to declare its commitment to the maintenance and strengthening of international peace and security, but which has contributed to the highly destructive destabilisationof the situation in Ukraine and several other countries in the past few years.

While making unfounded accusations, the United States has not only failed to take any practical steps – unlike Russia – to settle the Ukrainian crisis and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, but has actually prodded the Kiev authorities towards keeping up a fratricidal internal conflict.

The US State Department’s report once again accuses Russia, without reason, of violating its obligations under the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty). In fact, it proceeds from the report that in 2014 Russia possessed, produced or flight-tested ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, and that it also possessed or produced launchers of such missiles.

This is a completely ungrounded allegation. Evidence of this is the inability by the United States to provide any concrete facts but only refers to “highly sensitive information and sources and methods,”the reliability of which cannot be verified.

It appears that the main goal of the US campaign over the INF Treaty is to discredit Russia and at the same time to divert public attention from the free interpretation of INF Treaty provisions that prevent it from creating weapons systems that Washington needs.

In this connection, we are very worried about US plans to deploy vertical missile launch systems (VLS) at its bases in Romania and Poland. According to our assessments, these systems can launch SM-3 interceptor missiles and Tomahawk intermediate-range missiles. This would be in direct violation of the INF Treaty.

We also have questions about the United States using target missiles for BMD tests with characteristics that are similar to those of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles. There are grounds to assume that the United States may be using these tests to improve the production and combat characteristics of prohibited ballistic missiles.

We also note that the unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs or combat drones), which the United States has been manufacturing for years, also fall under the INF Treaty definition of ground-based cruise missiles, including in view of the specified interpretation of the term “weapon-delivery vehicle”from the diplomatic notes exchanged between the Soviet Union and the United States on May 12, 1988.

We have urged the United States on many occasions to conduct an expert discussion of issues related to the implementation of the INF Treaty by the participating parties. However, the United States clearly prefers to use “loudspeaker diplomacy” instead. We see this, above all, as evidence of US weakness andlack of confidence in its arguments, especially when real facts rather than allegations are used by its opponents.

We have taken note of statements by Pentagon officials to the effect that the United States is considering several military responses to alleged Russian violations, including the potential deployment of intermediate and shorter-range missiles, which are prohibited under the INF Treaty, close to the Russian border. This would amount to an irremediable violation of the INF Treaty by the United States, with all the ensuing consequences.

We are urging the United States to implement its obligations under the INF Treaty and not to undermine the viability of this document.

The US approach to the compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) raises a number of questions. The so-called joint nuclear missions practiced by the United States and its NATO allies are a grave violation of the Treaty. As is known, Article 1 of the NPT forbids nuclear states to transfer nuclear weapons to any recipient, as well as other nuclear explosive devices, or to assist any non-nuclear state in manufacturing or acquiring such weapons or devices either directly or indirectly. We have repeatedly drawn our US colleagues’ attention to the fact that the participation of the European non-nuclear-weapons members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in joint nuclear planning and practicing skills of using nuclear weapons involving aircraft carriers, their crews, airport infrastructure and ground services of the aforementioned states openly contradicts the spirit and the letter of the NPT. However, the United States persists in pursuing the same line.

We believe that this problem has only one solution – the return of all non-strategic US nuclear weapons to its national territory and establishing a ban on its deployment abroad, the liquidation of the respective infrastructure which allows to rapidly deploy those weapons, as well as a dismissal of trainings (drills) related to the issues of preparing and using nuclear weapons by the troops of the states that do not possess such weapons.

The persistent refusal of the United States to participate in working out international agreements on the prevention of weapons deployment in space causes grave concerns. Washington continues to be guided in this issue by its national conceptual principles. The latter, among other things, make provisions for the use of preventive military measures even in the case of presumed hostile actions from other states, which in itself contradicts the norms of the international law. For example, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff’s document JP 3-14 Space Operations allows for “preventive diplomatic, information, military and economic measures” against an adversary’s space capability.

Such a presurmise most evidently echoes the draft Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities that the United States has been so vigorously supporting since 2012. In particular, regarding the provisions of the Code which entitle one state to take unsanctioned, out-of-jurisdiction unilateral military actions against space devices of other nations.

Clearly, such doctrine-related provisions along with the initiatives supported by the United States with the invariable will of the US administration to preserve total “discretion” in space can hardly be considered facilitating international efforts to ensure equal and indivisible security for all and to sustain global stability.

The United States’ inconsistent stance on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) obviously contradicts the US’ claim of adhering to the non-proliferation regime. Despite repeated declarations to ratify the Treaty and to make efforts on its coming into effect as soon as possible, no practical steps have been made in this direction. Washington’s arguments that the United States has not yet achieved favourable conditions for ratifying the Treaty do not hold up to criticism. Considering that the other countries whose ratification is needed for the Treaty to come in effect largely behave with an eye to the United States, Washington’s “stagnant” position appears to be a major hurdle on the way to turning the CTBT into an active international legal instrument.

We have also noted that the United States failed to ratify key international legal instruments in the area of physical nuclear safety: the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. At the same time Washington attempts to assume the role of the main and privileged actor in this area. We believe that we should be able to expect a more responsible approach from a country with such leadership ambitions in the area of the Physical Nuclear Security. We would like to hope that the United States will manage to display such an approach in practice by ratifying the documents named above.

Regrettably, the United States has long chosen the tactics of spreading provocative conjectures and insinuations about other states on the issues related to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) instead of fruitfully participating in the efforts of the international community to strengthen the Convention. This is probably being done to hide the United States’ own poor record regarding the compliance with the BWC.

Consider the scandal around new cases of sending out live anthrax samples, a potential biological weapons agent. Just like in 2001, when a similar incident occurred, the source of the deadly infection was Pentagon’s military biological facilities: back then it was the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland, whereas now it was the Lothar Salomon Life Sciences Test Facility (LSTF) at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. Due to the sending out of anthrax samples from the Lothar Salomon Life Sciences Test Facility, an increased risk of a highly dangerous infection threatened not only the US population but also that of other countries: Canada and Australia. The shipment of bacteria to the US military facility in the third country, Osan Air Base in South Korea, was particularly alarming.

Pentagon’s activities on deploying its medical and biological laboratories next to the Russian borders raise deep concerns. The most salient example in this respect is the R.G. Lugar Center for Public Health Research in a suburb of Tbilisi, a laboratory of a high biological isolation level. The Center is “home” to a medical research unit of the US army, a branch of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR). The US and Georgian authorities make efforts to conceal the true content and focus of the activities of this US army unit, which studies highly infectious diseases. Pentagon is also trying to introduce similar undercover military medical-biological facilities to other CIS countries.

This worrying activity of Pentagon is being conducted in areas directly related to the BWC against the background of apparent lack of interest on the part of the US Administration in strengthening the Convention as a tool of mutual security. It is a known fact that in 2001 the United States unilaterally disrupted multilateral talks in Geneva on designing a BWC verification mechanism, and has been resisting the resumption of the talks ever since. Decade-long efforts of the international community on strengthening the Convention have been derailed.

We could not help but notice that the US Department of State iterates the already common argument that the United States cannot certify the fulfillment of Russia’s statements regarding the amount of stockpile of toxic substances, the number of former chemical weapons production facilities, production capacities – implying that Russia does not fully observe the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

We would like to remind the US that compliance with the CWC remains within sole competence of the recognised international Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Washington should not take up OPCW functions – particularly, because the organisation itself has never had any complaints regarding the credibility of reports provided by the Russian Federation.

The alleged gaps in the fulfillment of the obligations by other countries are apparently pointed out in order to shade Washington’s own omissions and violations. Specifically, it is known that during their presence in Iraq, US-led NATO troops, without any international supervision or OPCWapproval, neglected security requirements and destroyed Iraq’s toxic weapons that they obtained, which caused significant harm to the health of involved personnel. Speaking of Syria’s dragging out of the removal of chemical weapons from its territory – which was carried out under the extreme circumstances of a domestic armed conflict – the report authors somehow forgot about the delays in the destruction of Syria’s toxic weapons at Veolia in the United States, which resulted in the destruction deadline being pushed back to November of this year.

Regarding the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), we do not think it reasonable to revisit this subject. The actions of the United States and its allies determined the fate of this treaty as they attempted, with persistence and stubbornness, to promote their own geopolitical interests through using their control over the conventional armed forces in Europe.

A serious discussion of an agreement to replace CFE based on balancing the interests of all the parties, including Russia, is possible if the US and other NATO states can abandon this discrediting approach.

Like last year, the 2015 report by the US State Department enumerates US complaints about other parties’ compliance with the Treaty on Open Skies (OST).

Regarding Russia’s alleged airspace restrictions,we will reiterate that the limitations on flight altitudes over the Moscow and Chechnya restricted zones are due to flight safety regulations.

The maximum flight distance for flights over the Kaliningrad Region was introduced underOST provisions and the related decision of the Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC). This procedure allows for effective observation of the region the same as withother regions of Russia and adjacent countries (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia).

Restrictions for Open Skies flights near the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were introduced in accordance with OST provisions, according to which the flight path of an observation aircraft shall not be closer thanten kilometres from the border with an adjacent state that is not a signatory state. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not OST signatories.

The report also claims that Russia refused to provide priority flight clearance for certain Open Skies flights. Under OST, Open Skies flights “shall take priority over any regular air traffic”, that is, scheduled airline flights.

We are surprised by the US’ insistent attempts to discredit Russia’s decision to close military airfields for all declared national holidays. Other OST signatories widely use this practice.

The Russian Federation has encouraged the United States to determine a procedure for the observation of areas and territories outside its continental area on several occasions. Unfortunately, we have not received any reply, even a framework reply, to our inquiries. This unregulated issue leaves parts ofUS territories out of view, which is a major violation of the OST.

As for several countries’ requests for clarification under the “unusual military activities” provisions in Chapter III of the Vienna Document in 2014, Russia has, on several occasions, said unambiguously that its armed forces are not conducting any unusual or unscheduled military activities that must be reported under the Vienna Document. We have pointed out several times that the routine activities of the Russian armed forces within national territory do not threaten the safety of the OSCE member states. No country that has requested clarification underChapter III of the Vienna Documenthas provided any evidence of Russia’s unusual military activity.Nor have inspections identified any significant military activity by the Russian armed forces.

We have to say that this disregard for the findings of inspections is doing a disservice to the regime of confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs). It appears that the CSBM regime is only effective in “good weather” and is not used as intended during crises, but to demonstrate support for one side and to put political pressure on the other.

The only conclusion we can draw from the 2015 State Department report is that the United States continues to rely on propaganda and misinformation to the detriment ofcareful, thorough and meaningful discussions of issues pertaining to the signatory states’ compliance with their commitments under arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament agreements. Our experience of relations with our US colleagues on these issues shows that Washington’s policy is based on a lack of evidence of Russia’s alleged violations and neglect to work with all the concerned parties within specialised formats.

Russia is always ready for this discussion.

 


June11, 2015
 
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