Washington faults Moscow for suspending inspections and cancelling talks under New START Treaty as tensions rise over Ukraine conflict.
The United States has accused Russia of not complying with New START — the last remaining arms control treaty between the world's two main nuclear powers, as tensions soar over the Ukraine war.
Responding to a request from Congress, the State Department on Tuesday faulted Moscow for suspending inspections and cancelling talks but did not accuse Russia of expanding nuclear warheads beyond agreed limits.
"Russia is not complying with its obligation under the New START Treaty to facilitate inspection activities on its territory," a State Department spokesperson said, charging that Moscow's refusal "threatens the viability of US-Russian nuclear arms control."
"Russia has a clear path for returning to full compliance. All Russia needs to do is allow inspection activities on its territory, just as it did for years under the New START Treaty, and meet in a session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission," he said, referring to the formal talks set up under the treaty.
"There is nothing preventing Russian inspectors from travelling to the United States and conducting inspections."
Moscow did not immediately comment on the US accusation.
Russia announced in early August that it was suspending US inspections of its military sites under New START.
It said it was responding to American obstruction of inspections by Russia, a charge denied by Washington.
Diplomacy between the two powers has ground to a bare minimum over the past year as the United States leads a drive to punish Russia economically for its war against Ukraine and arm Kiev with billions of dollars in weapons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, reviving Cold War-era fears of an apocalyptic war.
Russia indefinitely postponed talks under New START that had been due to start on November 29 in Cairo, accusing the United States of "toxicity and animosity."
READ MORE: Biden to Putin: Refrain from using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine
The United States has found Russia in noncompliance with its New START Treaty obligations to facilitate U.S. inspection activities and convene the Bilateral Consultative Commission in accordance with the treaty timeline. https://t.co/zHLNEd07NM— U/S of State for Arms Control & Int'l Security (@UnderSecT) January 31, 2023
'Make the world safer'
President Joe Biden, shortly after taking office, extended New START by five years until 2026, giving time to negotiate while preserving what the Democratic administration sees as an important existing treaty.
The previous administration of Donald Trump had ripped up previous arms control agreements and had been hesitant to preserve New START in its current form, saying that any nuclear treaty must also include China, whose arsenal is rapidly growing but still significantly below those of Russia and the United States.
The Biden administration indicated that it wanted to preserve New START. The State Department spokesperson said the treaty was meant "to make the world safer."
New START, signed by then-president Barack Obama in 2010 when relations were warmer, restricted Russia and the United States to a maximum of 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads each — a reduction of nearly 30 percent from the previous limit set in 2002.
It also limits the number of launchers and heavy bombers to 800, still easily enough to destroy Earth.
READ MORE: Putin signs extension of New START arms control treaty