US holds back nuclear forces data from Russia in response to treaty violations

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The White House said it has stopped sharing detailed data on its strategic nuclear forces with Russia in response to the Kremlin refusing to comply with a key nuclear arms treaty, the standoff another front between Washington and Moscow over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in February that it was suspending its participation in the New START nuclear arms treaty with the U.S., citing America’s military support for Kyiv as making it impossible for Moscow to engage with Washington.

White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday that Russia has refused to share nuclear data with the U.S., prompting Washington to withhold sharing its own nuclear data with Moscow.

“We obviously would like to see Russia back in New START in full compliance … Russia refused to share data, which we agreed in New START to share biannually … since they have refused to be in compliance with that particular modality of New START, we have decided to, likewise, not share that data,” Kirby said.

“We would prefer to be able to do that, but it requires them to be willing as well.”

The U.S. decision to withhold key nuclear data was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

While Russian officials have stressed that Moscow has not abandoned the New START nuclear arms treaty with the U.S., Russian diplomats have refused to participate in key meetings with American officials as required by the treaty and failed to allow the resumption of inspections of nuclear facilities.

The treaty — which nuclear nonproliferation experts say is a necessary check on nuclear-armed nations — limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads each country holds and allows insight into each other’s nuclear stockpiles to promote safety and stability.

President Biden and Putin agreed in March 2021 to exercise the one-time extension of the New START treaty, which lasts until 2026, but nuclear nonproliferation experts warn that Russia’s suspension and delay of engaging with the treaty are burning precious time to negotiate a follow-on agreement.

Putin’s provocations around the treaty have occurred at the same time as the Russian president has raised the possibility of using nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine.

Most recently, Putin has raised the possibility that Russia will move tactical nuclear weapons to neighboring Belarus, a worrying development that could set Moscow up to threaten Ukraine on its northern border and, in particular, Kyiv.

Russia used Belarus as a launching pad for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Kirby, in remarks to reporters on Tuesday, said the White House has seen no indication that Putin is moving tactical nuclear weapons “around, let alone Belarus,” and he said that the U.S. was making no defensive moves that anticipated a possible nuclear threat from Russia.

“We have not changed our strategic nuclear posture,” he said.

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