MOSCOW – Russia will continue to give the U.S. advance notice about its missile tests despite suspending the last remaining nuclear arms treaty between the two countries, a top Russian diplomat said Thursday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov's statement followed his comments on Wednesday, when he said Moscow had halted all information exchanges with Washington envisioned under the 2011 New START nuclear pact, including missile test warnings.
On Thursday, he clarified that Russia intends to stick by its pledge last month to keep notifying the U.S. about missile tests in line with a 1988 U.S.-Soviet agreement, Ryabkov said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended the country's participation in the New START treaty last month, saying Russia couldn't allow U.S. inspections of its nuclear sites at a time when Washington and its NATO allies have openly declared Moscow’s defeat in Ukraine as their goal.
Moscow emphasized at the time that it wasn’t withdrawing from the pact altogether and would continue to respect the caps on nuclear weapons the treaty set.
Earlier this week, the U.S. announced that Moscow and Washington have stopped sharing biannual nuclear weapons data as envisioned by New START. U.S. officials said Washington had offered to continue providing the information after Putin suspended Russia's participation, but Moscow told Washington it wouldn't share its own data.
The termination of information exchanges under the pact marked yet another attempt by the Kremlin to discourage the West from ramping up its support for Ukraine by pointing to Russia’s massive nuclear arsenal. Last weekend, Putin announced the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to the territory of Moscow’s ally Belarus.
Along with data about the current state of the countries’ nuclear forces routinely released every six months, the parties to the New START treaty also exchanged advance warnings about test launches and deployments of their nuclear weapons.
Such notices have been an essential element of strategic stability for decades, allowing Russia and the United States to correctly interpret each other’s moves and make sure that neither country mistakes a test launch for a missile attack.
Ryabkov wouldn't say if the 1988 U.S.-Soviet agreement would cover all the missile tests that Russia was obliged to issue notices about under New START.