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Russia paused New START inspections ahead of US plan to conduct such probe in days

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov recalled that the inspections under the New START had been suspended since the beginning of 2020 by mutual agreement due to the coronavirus pandemic

MOSCOW, August 9. /TASS/. The reason why Russia has paused the inspections of its facilities under the New START was the United States’ intention to conduct such a probe within days, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told the media, when asked about the decision to suspend this procedure.

"The United States’ notification of the intention to conduct an inspection on our territory worked as the trigger. In the current situation such a step looked like an outright provocation," Ryabkov said in a commentary uploaded to the Foreign Ministry’s website.

Ryabkov recalled that the inspections under the New START had been suspended since the beginning of 2020 by mutual agreement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"At the same time, a fairly close professional dialogue continued through the appropriate channels on how the parties might resume the full implementation of the agreement in terms of verification and what organizational and technical problems were to be solved for this. Some issues were settled and significant progress made on others. But a number significant difficulties and disagreements still remained," Ryabkov said.

He urged the United States to abandon counterproductive actions that by no means benefited the mutual cause and to continue to work closely to quickly resume inspection activities under the treaty on a realistic and equitable basis. "This would be in the interests of both sides," he stressed.

Problems with inspections

Ryabkov explained that against the background of current relations with the Western countries more obstacles had emerged to the resumption of inspection activities under the treaty. "This concerns the lack of normal air traffic, for which the West is to blame, refusal to respond to our requests for confirming the permission to our aircraft with inspectors to fly through the airspace of transit countries, visa problems during transit, difficulties in making payments for services during inspections, and so on. All this complicates or even blocks our opportunities for conducting unhindered inspections on US territory and creates unilateral advantages for the US side. This, of course, is unacceptable," he said.

Ryabkov said Moscow had put all these questions to Washington. He also remarked that the United States showed interest in conducting expert, depoliticized work through the channels of the bilateral consultative commission for New START, and the two parties were already exploring the possibilities for holding its next session. "As it seemed to us, there was an understanding that it was necessary to ensure the functioning of the treaty’s verification mechanism in strict accordance with the principles of equality and parity and to agree and assert the relevant parameters. Obviously, it would be logical to resume inspection activities only after that," he added.

"Regrettably Washington, apparently decided to act otherwise and opted for an unreasonable and unnecessary aggravation. They tried to place us before an accomplished fact and to conduct an inspection in fact without proper notice. What makes this step particularly provocative is it was carried out directly during the NPT Review Conference, where the discussion of nuclear disarmament and the reduction of strategic risks takes center stage. One can only guess about the true motives of the US side, but it looks like the request for an inspection was not prompted by bona fide goals of strengthening the viability of the New START and the NPT," Ryabkov said.

As the Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier, Russia officially notified the United States through diplomatic channels that it was temporarily withdrawing its facilities from inspection activities under this agreement. The Foreign Ministry stressed that Moscow was forced to resort to such actions "due to Washington's persistent wish to implicitly restart inspection activities on conditions that do not take into account the existing realities, create unilateral advantages for the United States and actually strip Russia of the right to carry out inspections on US territory.".