WASHINGTON — Today, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced it would temporarily suspend inspections under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), one of the last remaining nuclear weapons treaties between the U.S. and Russia, because of flight and visa restrictions imposed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The 2010 treaty limits the U.S. and Russia to no more than 1,550 deployed offensive strategic nuclear weapons each and a key component to making sure both sides are adhering to the agreement are strict verification measures, including on-site inspections, which have been suspended since 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Derek Johnson, managing director of Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, issued the following statement:
“The importance of New START cannot be overstated: it is the last binding restraint on U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, which account for more than 90% of the global stockpile. The monitoring and verification regime established under the Treaty provides both parties with critical insight into each other’s arsenal, preventing planning based on worst-case scenarios. It is an essential guardrail against arms racing and nuclear conflict.
“Tensions are high, risks are rising, and when it comes to nuclear weapons there is no margin for error. Russia’s war of aggression has inflicted terrible harm against Ukranians and dramatically worsened the global security environment, but it cannot be allowed to spill over into the nuclear arena and further erode the fragile systems that hold these weapons in check. Russia’s move could have devastating, long-term consequences, opening the door to unconstrained and costly nuclear competition between the world’s two most heavily-armed nuclear nations that can only increase the risk these weapons will be used. Whatever the issue holding up inspections, it must be resolved quickly.
“Worsening tensions between Russia and the West makes engagement more difficult — and more critical. The Global Zero movement calls on the United States and Russia, which together possess over 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, to ensure New START is fully implemented and to get back to the urgently important task of restraining and eliminating these weapons.”