Russian Report Faults US Compliance With Arms Control Treaties

Aug 9, 2010

By Oliver Bloom

While controversy erupted last month about Russian compliance with its treaty obligations following the State Department’s release of its 2010 Compliance Report, Russia recently responded to the accusations by releasing a compliance report of its own on Saturday, accusing the United States of dozens of violations of a variety of arms control treaties. The New York Times offered a summary of the Russian report’s accusations, explaining that
The 10-page report detailed lapses in security at Los Alamos National Laboratory, cited reports on security threats posed by private laboratories in the United States conducting research on potential military pathogens and noted what it called failures by the United States to provide telemetry on test missile launchings.
 
It also rekindled complaints that the United States and other NATO nations had disregarded a 1997 agreement with Russia limiting the deployment of forces in former Eastern Bloc countries, and noted that the American missile defense program employed decoy rockets seemingly belonging to a class of missiles banned under a treaty on intermediate range nuclear weapons.
 
[…]
 
The Russian report cited a number of complaints against policies of the Bush administration. The United States, it said, had converted B-1 bombers to carry conventional weapons, rather than destroying them to meet treaty obligations. And assurances that such weapons could not be quickly retooled for nuclear bombs were inadequate.
 
Citing the Department of Agriculture’s own reports, it said control over laboratories studying plant pathogens was weak.
 
Megan Mattson, a State Department spokeswoman, responded to the accusations by saying “We have met our obligations under START.” She did not elaborate, however, either on the particular Russian concerns, or on the other arms control treaties mentioned in the document. 
The variety of the Russian complaints, at least from the various news reports, concern agreements besides START, including the CFE and INF treaties, the BWC, and the Missile Technology Control Regime.   On START compliance issues, the Russian report alleges that the United States failed to provide adequate telemetry on missile tests. Xinhua News Agency quoted the report,
"In the period of the validity of START 1 (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), Russia's concerns in regard to the observance of the treaty by the U.S. were not allayed," the ministry said in a statement published on its website.
 
"For example, notices and telemetric data were not provided to the Russian side in advance with regard to a number of Trident-II submarine-launched missile flight tests carried out at the Eastern Range," the ministry said.
 
The ministry said "uncontrolled activities" on the part of the U.S. deprived Russia of the possibility of monitoring one of the key parameters under the 1991 START-1 treaty.
 
The Russian government also expressed concerns in its report about the U.S.’s B-1 conversion policy (from nuclear to conventional roles), even though this policy was allowed under START.. As noted earlier, it appears the Russian government had concerns about the ability of the United States to quickly and easily retool the bombers for a nuclear role. 
 
With regards to the INF Treaty, the Russian government alleges, as the New York Times explained
 
that the American missile defense program employed decoy rockets seemingly belonging to a class of missiles banned under a treaty on intermediate range nuclear weapons.
 
On the BWC, the Russians complained about the U.S.’s willingness to allow international supervision of its compliance with the BWC. Furthermore, the Russians complained about security at various biological laboratories in the United States, as well as U.S. research into biological weapons and smallpox. The accusations on biological weapons are particularly ironic, given the gross violations of the Biological Weapons Convention by the Soviet government in the 1970s and 1980s. 
 
And with regards to the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Russian government complained that
 
American companies continue to supply missile technology related products and know-how to foreign countries, about [a] third of which are not members of the Missile Technology Control Regime, including Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, Taiwan and others, the statement said.
 
What effect the Russian report will has is unclear. The New York Times quoted a Russian academic,
The Russian report seemed clearly aimed at American policy makers, Sergei A. Karaganov, a dean of the faculty of international relations at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, said in an interview.
 
“It is an issue balancing accusations on the American side with counteraccusations, which are more numerous on the Russian side,” said Mr. Karaganov, adding that the point of the report was to say that “nobody is holy” in observing arms agreements.
 
Given the disparate nature of the Russian complaints, it certainly seems likely that they are more an attempt to respond to the various American accusations from the 2010 Compliance Report, rather than a concerted attempt to undermine New START ratification.  Some are such minor issues that it hardly seems worthwhile to complain about them at all.  But given the veracity of the debate in the United States about New START, despite its innocuous nature, one cannot be convinced as to how arms control opponents may take the news. Given the level of mistrust between the two sides, trading accusations certainly does nothing to improve the relationship. While the United States has stated that despite its issues related to compliance, it still doesn’t feel that the Russians cheated on the START agreement, it remains unclear what message the Russians want to send with their compliance report. 
 
What seems most likely from the Russian report is a desire to respond to the accusations and note that the United States is itself not innocent with regards to treaty compliance issues.   Reuters also reported that the release of the Russian compliance report was accompanied by two missile tests in the Barents Sea, what Reuters described as “another sign of muscle-flexing from Moscow.” Hopefully the rhetoric on both sides, intentional or not, begins to cool down and the two sides manage to pass New START, rather than continue to trade accusations and jeopardize what had earlier seemed to be an improved relationship.