Russia’s assessment of the US Department of State’s Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments
The United States advocates on paper for strict observance of international legal standards, including international agreements and other multilateral legally binding instruments aimed at enhancing international security. The key role in this area is played by treaties and conventions on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, and relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.
Loudly proclaiming such an approach, the United States presents its activities as a “reference model” of commitment to international law. However, it establishes its own criteria for implementing one or another agreement and grants itself the right to judge other states’ compliance with their international obligations. In doing so, the US acts in an expressly peremptory manner and often ignores established practices of resolving emerging issues or “flexibly adapts” them to suit US needs, taking it upon itself to accuse others of “violations” or “non-compliance” without even bothering to provide proof.
The annual report of the US Department of State, published on April 18, follows the same vicious logic and has the same shortcomings inherent in previous similar reports. While groundlessly accusing individual countries, the authors of the report again sought to present the US as a state with an impeccable “record of service” with regard to compliance with treaties and conventions on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.
Such a deliberately mentoring manner of presenting and compiling facts and allegations has deeply rooted in the US as a tradition of justifying its claims to have “the exclusive right” to judge “defaulters” and demand that they mend their ways or face punishment.
Being committed to full and unconditional compliance with its obligations under international agreements, the Russian Federation resolutely rejects the methods and means used by Washington to “point its finger” at countries it considers guilty of non-compliance with obligations under relevant agreements.
In recent years it has become increasingly plausible that the real reason of such US actions stems not just from simple reluctance to engage in complicated expert dialogue to address various concerns. It is much more serious than that. Washington is afraid to be caught red handed hurling groundless accusations at other states, which are largely prompted by a desire to conceal from the international public its own numerous violations of international treaties and conventions on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.
The Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation deems it necessary to draw once again attention to these unacceptable US actions and to the indisputable facts that should facilitate an objective assessment of the real situation in the area of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation and state of affairs in terms of compliance, both by Russia and the United States, with obligations under relevant agreements.
1. Missile defense issues
In 2001, the United States announced its withdrawal from the ABM Treaty of 1972 and adopted a policy of unilateral and unrestrained development of its global missile defense system. Thus one of the major pillars of the global strategic stability system has been destroyed.
Since then, the unconstrained pursuit by the US of the missile defense system has been having a negative impact on the international security system, considerably complicating relations both in the Euro-Atlantic and Asia-Pacific regions, and has become one of the most serious impediments to the continued step-by-step process of nuclear disarmament. Moreover these efforts contribute to the emergence of dangerous preconditions that could spark a new nuclear arms race.
We have repeatedly brought this issue to the attention of the United States. Nevertheless despite formally acknowledging (including in the Treaty on the Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms of 2010) the existing interrelationship between strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms the American side has not demonstrated its will to cooperate and take into account the concerns of the Russian side.
So far, we have not received a convincing answer to the question who exactly is the target and where is directed this costly missile defense system which is entirely disproportionate to any prospective challenges. It is symbolic that the United States was unwilling to review its missile defense plans, despite the successful implementation of the agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was concluded in 2015. However, we all remember that this was the core and essentially sole argument Washington made at the top level in favour of the deployment of a US missile defense system in Europe.
The recent efforts by Pentagon aimed at complementing this system by the capability of countering hypersonic weapons add more clarity to the question of where exactly the US missile defense system might be directed given that only a limited number of countries will be able to possess such weapons in the near future.
It is necessary to understand that the missile defense systems deployed around the world represent an integral part of a dangerous global project aimed at establishing omnipresent and overwhelming US military superiority to the detriment of other countries’ security interests. Taken in its entirety, the missile defense system architecture that is being actively developed by the United States is shifting the strategic balance in the area of offensive arms, provoking greater risks to global stability.
The danger is that the deployment of a missile defense “umbrella” might lead to a pernicious illusion of invulnerability and impunity, thereby encouraging Washington to take further dangerous unilateral steps to achieve its goals at the global and regional levels, bypassing the UN Security Council and flying in the face of common sense, similarly to what has already been done twice in Syria when missile strikes were launched against this sovereign state under invented pretexts.
There is only one solution to this problem: while carrying out its missile defense plans, the United States must in deed, rather than in word, be guided by the generally accepted principle that it is unacceptable to enhance its own security at the expense of the security of other countries.
2. The Treaty between the US and the USSR on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty)
Washington provides deliberately false information stating that its activities are “consistent” with the obligations set forth in the INF Treaty. For many years the United States has been simply ignoring Russia’s serious concerns which directly relate to implementation of this Treaty by the US side.
- The US has deployed Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense assets at its BMD base in Romania and plans to deploy them at a similar base in Poland. They include vertical launching systems which are analogous to Mk-41 shipborne universal vertical launching systems capable of employing attack weapons, including Tomahawk intermediate-range cruise missiles. This is irrefutably a flagrant violation of obligations under the INF Treaty. Moreover, we consider the deployment of such systems next to our borders as a direct threat to our security.
Taking into account the 2017 decision of the Japanese Government to purchase two Aegis Ashore systems for deployment on its territory, prerequisites are being created for Washington to violate its INF obligations once again – this time in the Asia-Pacific Region.
- To suit its missile defense needs, for over two decades the US has been realizing a large-scale testing programme, involving target missiles that are similar in characteristics to ground-launched intermediate-range and shorter-range ballistic missiles, thereby upgrading, inter alia, key elements of missile systems banned by the INF Treaty.
- For many years the US has been expanding the production and employment of UAVs with strike capabilities, which obviously fall under the INF definition of ground-launched cruise missiles.
It should be noted that we have been drawing the attention of our American colleagues to the latter two violations for over 15 years but there has been no constructive response.
As for our concern over the deployment of US missile launchers on the ground, after we first voiced it in 2014, without trying to resolve the problem, the US unleashed a public campaign of absolutely groundless accusations against Russia of violating the INF Treaty – stating that we were allegedly producing and testing INF-banned ground-launched cruise missiles. Claims against Russia have not been supported by any sound arguments. It took the US about four years just to deign to inform us exactly which missile caused its concern. At the same time the US refuses to explain how a missile that was not developed as an intermediate-range or shorter-range missile and was not tested to ranges prohibited by the INF Treaty could violate it. Yet the Americans insist in a peremptory manner that this invented “non-compliance” has occurred and demand that we “repent” of it.
We are seriously concerned that the US Congress and a number of US agencies are actively using their own “factology” as a pretext not only to impose more sanctions on Russia but also to justify plans to build up US nuclear capabilities. The updated US Nuclear Posture Review, published on February 2, puts it in no uncertain terms that the Pentagon’s requirement for new low-yield nuclear weapons (first of all, nuclear sea-launched cruise missiles) was dictated by “Russia’s violations of the Treaty”.
Washington is also getting more systematic in using its anti-Russia campaign in the INF context as a template to legitimize in the eyes of the public at large its own efforts to pump up military muscles. It is groundlessly and out loud accusing Russia of “aggressive behaviour” to justify the growing need to take “response measures”. In parallel the Americans are casting Russia as an enemy to US allies in an attempt to make them increase their military spending and speed up militarization. This policy is directly and negatively affecting security situation in Europe and globally.
3. US obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
The United States continues to claim that its activities “were consistent” with the obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. However, a disturbing situation related to Washington’s failure to comply with the provisions of this Treaty has not changed so far. The United States continues to involve non-nuclear European NATO member-states in the so-called “nuclear sharing missions”. These “missions” include elements of nuclear planning and efforts to learn skills to use nuclear weapons involving carrier aircraft of the alliance’s non-nuclear-weapons States-members, their crews, the infrastructure of airfields and ground-based logistics support services. This practice directly violates the Treaty’s Articles I and II. Instead of abandoning this practice, Washington’s latest doctrines, including the Nuclear Posture Review, envisage the extension of it.
Moreover, in the past few years, the United States has launched an unprecedented programme to upgrade all components of its nuclear arsenal, including non-strategic nuclear weapons deployed in other countries. Additionally to the announced plans to develop new low-yield nuclear warheads, (including nuclear warheads for Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles and the above-mentioned nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles), primarily for the purpose of the regional deterrence of Russia, the United States is set to deploy in Europe new variable yield and highly accurate nuclear gravity bombs. These specifications considerably reduce the nuclear threshold.
Other provisions of the new US nuclear doctrine also increase apprehensions that Washington has decided to dust off 40-year-old concepts and once again believes in the possibility of a winnable nuclear war. The doctrine envisages numerous additional options which will allow the US to use nuclear weapons, including a preventive strike. Some of the doctrine’s nuclear escalation scenarios on the part of the United States a priori have no military aspects. Indicatively, the Nuclear Posture Review does not confirm Washington’s commitment to its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Against this backdrop, the document’s references to the absolutely groundless claims about a growing “Russian nuclear threat” which are painstakingly voiced by the Americans seem particularly cynical. The provisions of the Russian military doctrine regarding the possible use of nuclear weapons are deliberately distorted There are persistent attempts to convince the Western society that Russia is revising its concepts regarding the place and role of nuclear weapons and laying an increasing emphasis on them. These claims are a far from reality.
Regarding the practice of NATO’s “nuclear sharing missions”, we would like to emphasize once again that there is only one way to resolve this issue: all non-strategic nuclear weapons should be returned to the territory of the United States, and their overseas deployment should be banned. The corresponding infrastructure used to quickly deploy these weapons should be dismantled and the exercises and training for the preparation of military personnel of the non-nuclear states for its use should be ceased.
4. US obligations under the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty)
Russia and the United States continue to implement the 2010 New START Treaty, to which Russia remains fully committed. At the same time, we have to constate that there are problems with its realization by the US Side. In particular, on February 5, 2018 (the control date when the Parties must have reached the central limits on strategic offensive arms) the United States reached the parameters set by the Treaty not only by actually reducing the arms but also by undertaking manipulations inconsistent with common practice for agreements. More specifically, it was done through converting a certain number of Trident-II SLBM launchers and В-52Н heavy bombers in such a way that precluded the Russian Federation from confirming that these strategic arms had been rendered incapable of employing SLBMs or nuclear armaments for heavy bombers as specified in the Treaty. Also, it was done through arbitrary reclassification of “silo training launchers” into “training silos,” a category not specified in the Treaty. By doing so, the United States has removed from the accounting under the Treaty a number of strategic offensive arms comparable to nuclear stockpiles of the UK and France taken together.
Employing the formats provided for by the Treaty to maintain interaction and dialogue with the United States we continue to search for mutually acceptable solutions to the issues related to the implementation of the Treaty and will seek to ensure strict compliance with the Treaty by the United States.
5. Situation around the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA)
The US Department of State is deliberately misrepresenting the reasons for Russia’s decision to suspend the implementation of the PMDA despite the numerous notifications and the publication of Federal Law No. 381-FZ of October 31, 2016. There are two reasons for the suspension.
The first and most important reason is unilateral unfriendly actions of the United States, which have resulted in a fundamental change of circumstances compared to those existing at the time when the treaty was concluded and created a threat to strategic stability. This is the reason for the suspension of the PMDA in accordance with Article 62 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
The United States alone can remove this reason by implementing the requirements of Article 2 of the above federal law, namely:
- reduce the military infrastructure and the number of US military personnel in the countries that joined NATO after September 1, 2000 to the level that existed on the day when the PMDA came into effect;
- terminate the so-called Magnitsky Act of 2012 and the so-called Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014;
- lift all sanctions introduced by the United States against individual Russian regions, entities and persons;
- pay a compensation for the damages Russia sustained as the result of the US sanctions, including losses from the countersanctions it had to introduce against the United States.
In addition to the above reason, which the US Department of State is so obviously ignoring, there is one more reason for the suspension of the PMDA - the plutonium disposition method, which is mentioned in the US State Department’s report. The US Department of State actually admits that the US administration tried to change the disposition method from irradiating its excessive plutonium in nuclear reactors to the dilution-burial method. The United States argues that this method is permissible under the PMDA and would allow it to begin fulfilling the goals of the PMDA more quickly.
This is not so. The plutonium disposition methods were coordinated during the preparation of the agreement, when the Russian side pointed out that the dilution-burial method would not guarantee the irreversibility of plutonium disposition, although it is cheaper and allows to start implementing the agreement earlier. However, an opportunity was stipulated for the United States to bury a certain strictly specified amount of plutonium. In a protocol amending the PMDA signed in 2010, the United States pledged to dispose all plutonium by irradiating it in nuclear reactors. According to that Protocol, the disposition was to begin in 2018.
Therefore, there are no provisions allowing any party to the agreement to unilaterally change the disposition method. The claim by the US Department of State that changing the disposition method would allow the United States to begin fulfilling the goals of the PMDA more quickly is devoid of meaning as well and can only indicate the inability of the United States to honour its obligations under the PMDA within the agreed timeframe.
Our US partners probed for the possibility of changing the disposition method during bilateral consultations and were duly notified of our negative attitude to this. However, we later learned from open sources that construction of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility for the disposal of US weapons-grade plutonium by irradiation cannot be completed sooner than in the 2030s and that the US administration has been trying to adopt bills changing the plutonium disposition method even though it had been notified of Russia’s disapproval of this step. Moreover, this happened when Russia practically completed the construction of its disposition facilities.
In other words, this is yet another example of US lack of responsibility in the implementation of agreements. Our American partners wait until the other side fulfils a considerable part of its obligations and then insist on changing the conditions to their benefit. This is unacceptable for us.
The Russian Federation has decided to suspend the PMDA in full compliance with the norms of international law. The US administration should realise that it is no longer possible to cooperate with other countries only in the spheres that would benefit the United States and to take measures to inflict massive damage to its partners in the other spheres.
We reaffirm our readiness to resume the PMDA but only after Washington eliminates the damage done to Russian-US relations by the ill-considered US administration’s actions and after the United States resumes compliance with the agreed plutonium disposition methods.
6. US obligations under the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
By abandoning its intent to ratify the CTBT, that was officially confirmed in the Nuclear Posture Review, the United States has dealt a serious damage to the Treaty that has been signed and ratified by the overwhelming number of states, including Russia. The fact that conditions for a possible resumption of nuclear tests are being systematically created in the United States makes us doubt that the United States will continue observing the moratorium on nuclear tests. This political line, chosen by Washington is in a clear contradiction with its declared commitment to the goals of strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Moreover, the US position in this matter may serve as a guideline for other key CTBT signatories that theoretically could follow Washington’s example. This will inevitably open the way for a nuclear arms race, which the CTBT is intended to prevent.
7. US obligations under the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE)
Given that the authors of the Department of State report mentioned again Russia’s suspension of its participation in the CFE Treaty presenting this as a “violation” of its obligations under this Treaty, we would like to remind them of the following.
The United States and its allies have repeatedly circumvented the CFE Treaty’s restrictive clauses via NATO expansion. In doing so, they in every way evaded the Russia-proposed upgrading of the conventional arms control regime in Europe (CACE) in line with the new military and political realities on the continent. The clearest confirmation of this is their refusal to ratify the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty.
It was only after Russia had suspended the CFE Treaty that the United States and its allies started talking about “the need to solve the problem related to the future of CACE”. But their attempts to use the dialogue on this issue as a lever of pressure on Russia have eventually led to its freezing.
Paying lip service to their commitment to “maintain, strengthen and upgrade CACE”, the United States and other NATO member states are in fact directing their efforts to “deter” Russia and further change of the balance of forces in the European region in their favour, including in the direct vicinity of Russia’s borders. The US attempts to “flexibly” interpret the Russia-NATO Founding Act clauses on “substantial combat forces”, accompanied by a build-up of heavy weapons and military equipment in units and at European forward-based storage facilities are in fact a case of dangerous balancing on the verge of violating this important document.
Considering all these circumstances, it makes no sense to go back to the subject of implementing the hopelessly and long time ago outdated CFE Treaty.
As for the prospects for developing a new CACE regime based on the principles of equal and indivisible security and parties’ balanced rights and obligations, they should be regarded in the context of NATO renouncing military “deterrence” of Russia in Europe and normalizing relations with the Russian Federation, including in the sphere of military cooperation.
8. US obligations under the 2011 Vienna Document on Confidence- And Security-Building Measures (VD-2011)
With regret we have to note that the US assessments of the parties’ compliance with their obligations under the VD-2011 regularly repeat accusations of Russia’s allegedly “selective implementation” of certain provisions of the VD-2011 and “insufficient transparency.”
The US complaints regarding the VD-2011 are limited to some US concerns coming around since 2014 about “Russia’s implementation of the VD-2011, including with respect to Ukraine”.
While accusing Russia without any grounds of “arming, training, and fighting alongside separatists in eastern Ukraine,” the US and other NATO countries have seriously discredited the role of the VD-2011 as an instrument of objective monitoring of the OSCE member states’ military activities. In this context, we must inform our American colleagues again that the Russian Federation is not a party to the internal conflict in Ukraine.
As for the continued accusations of the “occupation” and “annexation” of Crimea and the deployment of troops there “without the consent of the receiving state” in the context of compliance with the VD-2011 and the CFE Treaty, the reunification of the Crimean Peninsula with Russia is the result of free will expression of its population. The current status of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol as constituent entities of the Russian Federation is not subject to revision. Consequently, Russia is free to deploy troops and military equipment on its national territory, and any attempt to inspect the Crimean territory as a part of Ukraine will be regarded as a provocation and fail. Of course, Russia is ready to allow inspectors, observers and evaluation teams to enter Crimea if requests for such visits are received as stipulated in the VD-2011.
To the point, Kiev itself has not fulfilled the obligations under the VD-2011 with regard to its military activities in the Donbass, but the US Department of State report does not mention this.
As for claims about our failure to provide information on the Russian military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, these sovereign states are not the OSCE member states and therefore are not included in the zone of CSBMs application as defined in the VD-2011. The US experts who prepared this section of the State Department’s report clearly have exhaustive information about it. They surely know that Russia provides this information under a different OSCE document, namely, the Global Exchange of Military Information.
In 2017, just as before, the Russian side on a voluntary basis sent numerous notifications to the OSCE member states, including the US, with detailed information about the parameters of snap inspections and also major military exercises whose numbers were below the VD-2011 thresholds (such as the Joint Russian-Belarusian Strategic Exercise “Zapad 2017” and the Command Staff Exercise involving units of the 49th Joint Forces Army).
As for the major Russian weapons and military equipment systems mentioned in the report, we would like to note that the BRM-1K armored combat fighting vehicle is not included in any equipment category that must be reported under the VD-2011 due to its specifications, and the Su-30SM combat aircraft and the Ka-52 attack helicopter have not yet entered service.
Regrettably, this US report again fails to mention numerous problems with the VD-2011 implementation the United States and its allies are facing themselves.
In particular, some OSCE participating States (namely Denmark and Spain) continue not to notify other VD-2011 participants 42 days prior to the start of notifiable military activities (exercises).
Furthermore, some countries’ notifications do not contain information required for comprehensive planning of inspections during such exercises.
For example, between April 3 and 6, 2017, a group of Russian inspectors conducting verification activities in a designated area in the UK was unable to observe Exercise “Joint Warrior 17/1” hosted by the UK in this period, because the notification did not provide any geographical description or coordinates of the area where the exercise was to be held. Instead, the notification included all the firing ranges and certain townships in the UK. The same happened during an inspection in Belgium between October 23 and 26, 2017.
During inspections of the designated area in Latvia between November 7 and 10, 2017, the inspectors’ access to the range where an Estonian battalion was conducting live fire training was limited “for safety reasons.” Due to these restrictions, the inspectors could not properly assess the scale of military activities in that designated area.
Some countries, namely Poland, Slovakia, Romania, the UK and Belgium, prevented Russian inspectors who entered their territory for evaluation visits from counting the major weapons and military equipment systems at their military facilities.
9. US obligations under the Treaty on Open Skies (OST)
It is not the first time that the US side reproduces a set of template accusations that Russia allegedly fails to comply with the OST. We have repeatedly provided exhaustive replies to these grievances both within the framework of Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC) and in our comments on earlier State Department reports.
Thus, we have to reiterate once again that a sublimit of 500 kilometers over the Kaliningrad region has been imposed and enforced in keeping with OST provisions and the OSCC’s decisions. This arrangement provides for the same efficiency of observation as in the case of flights over the rest of the Russian Federation and the territories of contiguous states (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia).
Incidentally, given the existing observation flight distances, the United States can observe and take pictures of 77 per cent of the Kaliningrad region and other OST States Parties can have imageries of 96 per cent of the territory. To compare, a Russian aircraft can photograph only 3 per cent of Alaska during one observation flight over this exclave. Thus, observation efficiency in the Kaliningrad region is 30 times higher than in Alaska.
Restrictions for the OST flights along Russia’s border with the independent states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been introduced under the Treaty provision that prohibits flights within ten kilometers of a border with a non-party state.
Regrettably, the State Department report fails to mention the problems with the OST implementation the United States has itself.
1. In 2017, the US cancelled overnight accommodation stops for observation aircraft crews at Robins and Ellsworth AFB refuelling airfields, which is a breach of the observing party’s right to perform observation flights at a maximum range considering the maximum crew working time load. And this has much to do with flight safety.
2. Russia has paid great attention to working in a Small Group format and insisted on a “package solution” meeting the interests of both the United States and other party states, including Russia. After we offered our principled assessment of the selective US proposal, the US representatives chose to cease cooperation in this format.
3. Contrary to the OST provisions, the Americans put forward a demand on observation flight planning at the Travis point of entry, which is in contradiction with Article VI of the Treaty, under which the observing party submits a mission plan to the observed party after its arrival at the Open Skies airfield, whereas Travis is not such an airfield.
4. In violation of the Treaty, the United States has imposed the maximum distance for flights over the Hawaii Islands from the Hickam AFB refuelling airfield. At the same time, under the OST, the maximum distance for flights is established only for Open Skies airfields and calculated in accordance with certain rules. For this reason, the 900-kilometres distance over this part of the US territory is clearly underestimated and should cover at least 1,160 kilometers.
5. The United States has introduced restrictions for observation flights over the Aleutian Islands, under which the aircraft of the observing party should always remain within the external boundary of the adjacent zone extending for 24 nautical miles from the coast. This restriction, which the Treaty does not stipulate, considerably reduces the observation flight efficiency.
10. The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BWC)
The United States is yet again basing its claims against Russia on conjectures about alleged interconnection between Soviet military biological programmes and Russia's peaceful research in the field of microbiology. The Russian Federation once again notes the groundless nature of these conjectures and underscores that all issues regarding biological research in the Soviet Union related to the BWC have long since been completely resolved. We consider such US speculations as an attempt to divert the attention of the international community from its own improper activities in such a sensitive sphere as biology.
We again have to point out the incident with the circulation of anthrax spores from Salomon laboratory in the US state of Utah, which nearly caused a disaster in the countries where this deadly cargo was shipped to.
We are increasingly concerned about the Pentagon’s activities to deploy its biomedical laboratories in various parts of the world, including in the immediate vicinity of Russia’s borders. The so-called “Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research”, which is a high-level laboratory of biological isolation located in the suburbs of Tbilisi is the most indicative example in this regard. It is home to a medical research division of the US Army, which is a branch of the US Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. As it is known, this military unit of the US Army conducts research of particularly dangerous infectious diseases. The US and Georgian authorities are making efforts to conceal the true content and focus of the projects being implemented in the suburbs of Tbilisi. The Pentagon is trying to introduce the same camouflaged military medical and biological facilities in other CIS states.
Given that the United States has not yet withdrawn its reservation to the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which prohibits the use of bacteriological weapons, the question of the true goals of such US military biological activity in the post-Soviet space is quite reasonable.
Our concerns are further exacerbated by the interpretation of the BWC provisions presented in the current US report whereby the Convention, while prohibiting the development of biological weapons, allegedly does not cover research in this area. It appears that while developing large-scale biomedical activities, the United States is using such an interpretation of the provisions of the Convention for its purposes that clearly contradict the BWC.
We urge the United States to be as responsible as Russia in fulfilling its obligations under the BWC, to take concrete steps to address above-mentioned concerns, and to strengthen this disarmament instrument, which is important for international security.
11. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
For the past several years the US Department of State has attempted to dispute completeness of Russia’s declaration under Article III of the CWC and consequently to cast a shadow on the competence and authority of the OPCW which has been known as the most efficient and successful international organisation in the field of disarmament and WMD non-proliferation. Unlike Washington, the OPCW has no grievances against Russia.
This year again, guided by the unsubstantiated and completely groundless allegations of Russia’s imaginary involvement in poisoning Russian citizens Sergey and Yulia Skripal with a nerve agent in Salisbury, UK, the United States has blatantly accused Russia of violating CWC’s Article I. We repeatedly made known our position on this issue.
One should not forget that it is not Russia but the United States remaining the only CWC State Party which still owns a substantial chemical weapons arsenal. Moreover, it is also well-known from the open sources that the know-how to use full-fledged military-grade chemical weapons, including nerve agents, has been patented in the USA. Overall, some 140 patents of such a kind have been issued.
It was the most blatant violation of international law and, accordingly, the CWC when the United States backed by Great Britain and France hit civilian and government facilities in Syria with missiles on April 14 in response to the alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government on Douma, a suburb of Damascus, on April 7. The strike was delivered at the time when OPCW inspectors were about to depart for Douma to launch the investigation. There are reasons to believe that the missile blow was aimed to hinder the work of the OPCW officials and to prevent them from conducting an objective investigation.
Washington has yet to provide any evidence to prove its claims that the chemical weapons, which were allegedly used in Khan Sheikhoun in Syria last year, had been stored at the Shayrat Airbase. In other words, Washington acted in violation of international law, as well as the CWC, when it did not invoke its right to request an OPCW challenge inspection under CWC’s Article IX. Moreover, the Americans and their allies blocked the adoption of the OPCW Executive Council decision to launch a thorough and objective investigation on the site of the alleged chemical incident in Khan Sheikhoun without any further delay and to conduct an inspection of the Shayrat Airbase by the OPCW team.
The United States does not comply with its own obligations under the CWC, failing to declare its abandoned chemical weapons on the territory of other states. In particular, Washington has not admitted the ownership of phosgene bombs, abandoned in Panama, despite the experts of the OPCW Technical Secretariat had ascertained the US origin of those weapons back in 2002. The United States simply shifted the responsibility for the destruction of those weapons onto the Panamanian authorities.
It was back in 2012 when a number of US chemical weapons’ underground burials were found in Cambodia with their origin having been ascertained by the OPCW special commission. In essence, the United States has stayed away from doing anything to resolve the problem. The Cambodian authorities forwarded the detailed and documented information on those weapons to the OPCW Technical Secretariat to receive assistance in their destruction.
The United States shall assume a more responsible attitude to the use of chemical weapons by non-state actors in the Middle East. For this purpose, the United States should act within the framework of its obligations under the UN Security Council resolutions 2118, 2209 and 2235 and share with the UN Security Council the evidence, collected by the US military personnel in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2015 and 2016, which sheds the light on the crimes, committed by the ISIS and other terrorist groups, involving the chemical weapons’ use.
According to information published by The New York Times in 2014 and later confirmed officially, during the occupation of Iraq by the coalition forces in 2003-2009 the US Department of Defense found or purchased from the local population some 5,000 chemical weapons munitions, which had been manufactured under Saddam Hussein’s rule. At the same time the USA did not notify the OPCW about its actions, though it should have done so under the CWC, and carried out destruction of those munitions in Iraq without proper verification, employing a method of an open-air detonation which was unsafe for the people and environment. Some US soldiers and Iraqi citizens have suffered from the exposure to those chemical warfare agents.
The numerous Russian requests under paragraph 1 of the CWC’s Article IX to gain access to the archive materials of the OPCW Technical Secretariat on the issue were ignored.
It should also be noted that the US Congress imposed several conditions in the ratification documents on the US accession to the CWC that were quite contradictory to Washington’s obligations under the CWC. In particular, the US president and his administration are obliged to act contrary to the Convention ‘when necessary’: for example, to prohibit the overseas transfer of any samples collected in the United States; to restrict the challenge inspections in the USA by the OPCW experts at the request of other states to address concerns about possible non‑compliance with the Convention; to keep in force the Executive Order of the US President #11850 dated April 8, 1975, which allowed the use of riot control agents as a method of warfare in certain cases, contrary to Article I of the CWC.
The United States maintains its reservation to the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, thus allowing itself to use lethal and incapacitating chemical weapons as a retaliatory measure, that is contrary to Article I of the CWC as well.