IT: Russia may suspend nuclear arms inspections with US

Moscow mulls possible response to Western sanctions over Ukraine as tensions remain high

Uniformed men believed to be Russian servicemen walk around a Ukrainian military base near Sevastopol today. Photograph: Baz Ratner/ReutersUniformed men believed to be Russian servicemen walk around a Ukrainian military base near Sevastopol today. Photograph: Baz Ratner/Reuters

First published: Sat, Mar 8, 2014, 10:33

   

Russia may suspend nuclear arms inspections agreed in a treaty with the United States in reaction to Western sanctions over Ukraine, Russian news agencies today quoted an unnamed defence ministry source as saying.

The pact is the linchpin of the nuclear arms control regime between the former Cold War foes and the main product of the 2010 “reset”, a period of warmer ties that have since chilled.

The source said the ministry was studying the possibility of suspending on-site inspections agreed in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between Moscow and Washington. The United States suspended military cooperation such as joint exercises and port visits with Russia on Monday as Washington sought ways to punish Moscow for its intervention in Ukraine.

“The ungrounded threats to Russia from the US and Nato over its Ukrainian policy are regarded by us as an unfriendly gesture and allow us to announce force majeure,” the unnamed source was quoted as saying by the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. “We are ready to take this step as a response to the Pentagon’s statements about suspension of engagements between the armies of Russia and the US,” the source added.

“There could be no normal and regular bilateral contacts about adhering to the agreements against the background of … the US ‘sanctions’,” the source added. In the latest version of the START treaty, originally agreed in 1991, the United States and Russia pledged to cap the numbers of their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 each and limit the numbers of strategic nuclear missile launchers to 800 by 2018. The treaty allows each side to conduct 18 on-site inspections per year in the other country.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s acting foreign minister said today his country would not give up Crimea and would do all in its power to resolve the crisis over the Black Sea peninsula peacefully.

Andriy Deshchytsia also urged Russia to do more to ensure foreign observers can enter Crimea and made a new call for the creation of an international “contact group” to discuss the crisis over the region, now controlled by Russian forces.

“Crimea is and will be Ukrainian territory and we will not give up Crimea to anyone,” Mr Deshchytsia told a news conference in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

Referring to deaths this year during protests against Ukraine’s now deposed leader, Viktor Yanukovich, he said: “We are putting all our efforts into solving this matter through diplomacy – we have already had too many victims.”

Reiterating Ukraine’s readiness to negotiate with Russia, he said a contact group should be set up to help get negotiations going although this was “only a small step forward”.

US secretary of state John Kerry said on Thursday Washington wanted a contact group established to outline moves to reduce tensions and allow for Russian troops to return to barracks in Crimea, where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has a base.

“We want to keep good relations with the Russian people because we understand that we will live together in the future,” Mr Deshchytsia said. “I hope cold reason and belief in the future will prevail.”

He urged Russia to use its influence to ensure foreign monitors are able to enter Crimea. Military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been invited to go to the southern Ukrainian region by the national government, but have had to turn back at roadblocks.