House leaders press Biden administration to determine whether Russia breached nuclear arms treaty

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House leaders are raising concerns over Moscow’s noncompliance with a strategic nuclear arms control treaty between the U.S. and Russia as relations between the two countries sour amid the war in Ukraine.

The Republican chairmen of the Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees are calling on the Biden administration to submit a determination to Congress as to whether the Kremlin is in breach of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or START after a Russian delegation in November abruptly pulled out of nuclear talks known as the Bilateral Consultative Commission.

The lawmakers — Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers of Alabama, Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael T. McCaul of Texas and Intelligence Chairman Michael Turner of Ohio — also sounded alarms about recent statements from Russia‘s foreign minister blaming U.S. support for Ukraine as the reason behind the “strategic dialogue” between the U.S. and Russia being “kept in a suspended state.”

Russia‘s unilateral cancellation of the BCC and refusal to restart New START inspections, another key tenet of the treaty, coupled with other statements by its government officials, at a minimum, raise serious compliance concerns regarding the Federation’s adherence to the New START Treaty,” the chairmen wrote in letters to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

“This would occur during a uniquely dangerous time when both Russia and China are expanding and modernizing their arsenals, Iran, a state sponsor of terror, continues to expand its nuclear program, and North Korea rattles its nuclear saber,” the lawmakers wrote.

They asked the Biden officials to determine whether Russia‘s actions resulted in a material breach of the treaty and an assessment of the treaty’s nuclear arms verification regime in light of Russia‘s dismissal of key facets of the agreement.

New START restricts the number of deployed strategic warheads maintained by each country to 1,550 and caps each country’s deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missile launchers at 800.

Under the treaty, each country is permitted to deploy no more than 700 nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and nuclear-armed heavy bombers.

New START went into effect in 2011 and both countries entered into a five-year extension of the treaty in 2021.

Russia‘s noncompliance has jeopardized U.S. efforts to further extend the globes last remaining nuclear arms control deal beyond 2026.

“President Biden gifted Vladimir Putin a clean, five-year extension to New START at the beginning of his administration despite concerns about the treaty, including the weakness of its verification regime and its failure to address Russia‘s overwhelming advantage in nonstrategic nuclear weapons,” the three chairmen wrote.

“Subsequently ignoring noncompliance, specifically in the context of Russia‘s history of violating arms control commitments, would further undermine its own credibility in arms control,” they added.

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