US, Russia to discuss alleged nuclear treaty violations

The State Department is leading a U.S. delegation that will meet with Russian officials in Moscow Thursday to discuss Russia’s alleged violation of provisions in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces accord.

The United States says Russia has conducted tests involving ground-based intermediate-range missiles. The move would violate provisions of the 1987 INF Treaty, which is considered the cornerstone of the U.S.-Russian nuclear disarmament agreement.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. is going to make every effort to resolve concerns and ensure the continued viability of the treaty. “The goal, of course, is for Russia to return to compliance with its obligations under the INF,” said Harf.

President Barack Obama’s administration formally alleged that Russia was in violation of the treaty in July, but Stephen Blank of the American Foreign Policy Council thinks getting Russia to admit to a violation will be tough.

“I don’t think Russia will acknowledge that this took place. I think the Russians will accuse us of violating this treaty or some other treaty. It’s standard operating procedure for Moscow,” said Blank.

Russia’s Interfax news agency said Foreign Ministry arms control director Mikhail Ulyanov has indicated he will raise questions about U.S. policy during the talks.

Gary Samore, executive director at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said there is talk in Russia of scrapping the treaty.

“Some Russian officials, particularly in the military, have talked about their desire to withdraw from the treaty so they can deploy missiles that are currently banned under the treaty. And, of course, those missiles would be specifically directed against targets in Europe, in NATO,” said Samore.

Samore also said the current tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine could hamper progress at the talks.

“To the extent that this Ukraine crisis is elevating Russian concerns about NATO and NATO concerns about Russia, it makes it more difficult to address issues involving the treaty,” said Samore.

Both Samore and Blank say the treaty violation issue is unlikely to be resolved in one session. They expect future rounds of talks.


(US president Barack Obama meeting with Vladimir Putin, then prime minister of Russia, in 2009. Photo: White House)