Russia suspends START arms inspections over U.S. travel curbs

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Russian and U.S. state flags fly near a factory in Vsevolozhsk

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia told the United States on Monday it would not allow its weapons to be inspected under the START nuclear arms control treaty for the time being because of travel restrictions imposed by Washington and its allies.

Inspection conditions proposed by Washington created "unilateral advantages for the United States and effectively deprive the Russian Federation of the right to conduct inspections on American territory," the Moscow foreign ministry said in a statement.

Russia remained fully committed to complying with all the provisions of the treaty, it added.

The United States and its allies including Britain and the European Union closed their airspace to Russian planes as part of a barrage of sanctions imposed in response to Russia's decision to send its armed forces into Ukraine in February.

The New START Treaty, which came into force in 2011, caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia can deploy, and the deployment of land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them.

U.S. President Joe Biden said last Monday that his administration was ready to "expeditiously" negotiate a framework to replace New START, which is due to expire in 2026, if Moscow demonstrated its willingness to resume work on nuclear arms control.

But Russia's mission to the United Nations said Washington had withdrawn from separate talks with Moscow on strategic stability over the Ukraine conflict, and needed to decide what it wanted.

The following day, the Kremlin said time was running out to negotiate a replacement for New START, putting global security at risk.

The conflict in Ukraine has raised political tensions to levels not seen since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, with politicians in both Russia and the United States speaking publicly of the risk of World War Three.

Moscow says it was forced to intervene in Ukraine to defend Russian-speakers from persecution and avert a Western threat to use Ukraine to threaten Russia's security. Kyiv and its Western allies say these are baseless pretexts for an imperial-style land grab.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey and John Stonestreet)