Table of contents
- US renunciation of the JCPOA
- US withdrawal from the INF Treaty
- Problems with US compliance with the START Treaty
- Violations of the NPT Treaty by the US
- Questions on IAEA issues
- US resistance to the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Disruption of the CTBT by the US
- Erosion of the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement by the US
- Military-political realities and the CFE Treaty
- Problems with US observance of the 2011 Vienna Document and the Treaty on Open Skies
- Problems with US compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention and OPCW politicisation
- Problems with US observance of the BTWC
The Foreign Ministry has taken note of the US Department of State’s newly released preliminary version of its Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Non-Proliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, and would like to make the following observations in this regard.
While the document is supposed to focus on reviewing the compliance (failure to comply) by Washington with its own commitments, the report once again is mostly devoted to other countries.
The assessment by the United States of its own actions can be summarised as follows: We comply with all our obligations, and when others have raised compliance concerns, “the United States has carefully reviewed the matter to confirm its actions were in compliance with its obligations.” By the same token, we can hardly expect any revelations from the parts of the report that have yet to be released. Unfortunately, this has become a standard posture for the United States regarding arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament. Nothing has changed in this respect over the years. Non-proliferation, WMD, disarmament and arms control exist and matter for the United States only when Washington can benefit and when they can be used to impose its policy on others and dictate its conditions.
1. The report’s provisions on Iran provide a telling example of this twisted logic. As expected, the report does not mention the shortcomings of the United States related to its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and failure to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 2231. Bringing charges against Tehran was no easy task, since, unlike the United States, Iran has remained in compliance with all the requirements under the JCPOA, and especially against the backdrop of regular confirmations by the IAEA that Iran was committed to honouring its obligations. It is for this reason that our US colleagues came up with an unconventional move by ascribing all kinds of possible violations to Iran in advance, exposing the country for what it could do, in Washington’s view, but has actually never done.
The current US administration shows its disrespect for international law, including agreements signed by the United States. The US does nothing to conceal its true objective of breaking the will of the Iranian state, forcing it to abide by the US demands and assuming full control over Tehran’s international cooperation.
The decision by the United States to withdraw from the JCPOA on the Iranian nuclear programme has started a chain of negative events which, taken together, present a serious long-term challenge for present-day international architecture.
The United States has primarily dealt a blow to the agreements that have been regarded as the most outstanding achievements of international diplomacy in recent years. The JCPOA showed the possibility of settling nuclear non-proliferation problems through political and diplomatic means. Moreover, these agreements proved to be quite effective, helping reduce extreme tensions around the Iranian nuclear programme. Today, Iran is subject to the most intense scrutiny by the IAEA, and its nuclear programme is de facto a gold standard in terms of transparency. By the way, the same cannot be said about a number of Western countries.
Second, the United States not only revised its position on the JCPOA, but categorically refused to honour its obligations under the deal, thereby committing a flagrant violation of the agreements that it had initiated. This subversive activity has upset the equilibrium underpinning the JCPOA, since these comprehensive agreements were based on a stage-by-stage approach and the principle of reciprocity.
Third, the United States not only withdrew from the JCPOA and stopped complying with its obligations, but also engaged in an intentional effort to create obstacles for the implementation of the JCPOA by those who remained committed to the deal. Having left the nuclear deal and lost a seat on the JCPOA working mechanisms, including the JCPOA Joint Commission, Washington has cynically demanded that Tehran continue to scrupulously honour its commitments, while expecting members of the Joint Commission to submit their resolutions and drafts to the United States for approval. The United States went as far as directly threaten to impose sanctions on those who comply with the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors regarding the JCPOA, which is unprecedented in international affairs.
The resulting situation is perplexing in many ways. Despite the toxic environment created by Washington regarding the JCPOA, Iran continues to comply with all of its commitments under the nuclear deal, as well as its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements with the IAEA. So who is in breach of its commitments? It is the United States that decided to move in this direction and continues to persist in its efforts.
2. A flagrant case of purposeful efforts to shatter the arms control system is the scrapping of the INF Treaty, something that Washington had planned to do long ago but put into practice only recently. Moreover, this was done under a far-fetched and provocative pretext that Russia was to blame for “violating” this agreement.
On February 2, 2019, the US launched the official procedure of withdrawing from the INF Treaty (to be completed on August 2, 2019) by suspending the performance of its obligations under the Treaty for that period and declaring that it was stepping up the ongoing work to develop missile weapons banned by the agreement.
Thus, Russia’s years-old grievances against the US related to its implementation of the INF Treaty remain outstanding. These are as follows:
- since 1999, the Russian side has invariably warned the US side that it has ample reasons to believe that in the course of its tests declared as antimissile tests the US has for a long time maintained and developed its technological potential in the sphere of ground-based ballistic intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles by testing it against a broad spectrum of so-called target missiles that are often tested without even being exposed to a damage effect from antimissiles, which means that they are actually tested as weapon delivery vehicles by implication of the INF Treaty;
- since 2001, the Russian side has continually pointed to the US side’s illegitimate unilateral withdrawal from the scope of the INF Treaty of heavy combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that fully come under the definition of the ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) as contained in the INF Treaty and are able of performing missions comparable to those performed by the intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles;
- since 2014, we have been pointing to the direct violation of the INF Treaty involving ground deployment at European facilities of US global antimissile defences comprising Aegis Ashore MK-41 universal launchers that enable combat employment of Tomahawk middle-range cruise missiles and other ground-to-ground/surface-to-surface strike missile weapons.
While continuing to disregard all Russian concerns and yet feeling the weakness of its positions, Washington has focused, in recent years, on churning out ungrounded accusations against Russia in connection with its deployment of a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) that allegedly is incompatible with the INF Treaty. In replacing a normal expert dialogue with omissions and innuendos, the US bothered at least to identify the specific missile – 9M729 GLCM– in the Russian arsenal, doing so only four years after this problem came to be discussed.
The truth of the matter is that Russia engaged in no violations of the INF Treaty and that the 9M729 missile has never been developed for or tested within a range banned by the INF Treaty, which means that it conforms in full to Russian international commitments. We patiently explained this to our American colleagues, who failed to provide any proof to substantiate their ungrounded accusations.
The US side has turned down the initiatives on settling the existing claims based on concrete and realistic mutual transparency measures, which Russia put forward in December 2018 and January 2019. In so doing, the US did not even attempt to specify their details. They turned down the very idea that some accommodating steps were possible.
Nevertheless, the Russian side made yet another attempt to create the basis for diffusing the INF-related crisis. On January 23, 2019, Russia, as a goodwill gesture, showed the 9M729 missile to and held a detailed briefing for representatives of foreign states. It was clearly demonstrated that by its characteristics the said system simply could not have been tested within a range exceeding 500 km. But US representatives refused to attend this unprecedentedly transparent event, as did representatives of most other NATO countries that are being impolitely put under pressure by Washington and are also expressing concern over the 9M729 missile.
Despite Russian signals about the expediency of continuing the dialogue, the US side has shown no readiness for this. Instead, the US has opted for patently unacceptable demands and is threatening to withdraw from the Treaty.
By refusing to seek rational solutions and resorting to the tactics of open blackmail and ultimatums, Washington, with support from its NATO allies, has purposefully brought the situation to a deadlock and blocked the way to saving the INF Treaty.
The US has announced plans for a period later this year, when it will start testing missile weapons banned under the INF Treaty. Pentagon representatives say in public that advanced ground-launched intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles will substantially increase the “flexibility of US military potential” and “operational planning” in regional TOs, primarily in the APR. Thus, they are systematically gearing up for destabilising deployments that are fraught with an arms race as well as subversion of strategic stability and international security.
Under these circumstances, President of Russia Vladimir Putin declared on February 2, 2019, that the Russian side would have to come up with a mirror-like response to the US actions, including by suspending its implementation of the INF Treaty and carrying out missile-related R&D to maintain the balance of forces in this field. Nevertheless, the President stressed that if Russia had to develop such systems, it would not deploy them as long as US weapons of this class did not show up in relevant regions.
This unilateral restraint and predictability measure is aimed, among other things, at maintaining a “window of opportunities” for a resumption of dialogue, if and when the US is ready for this.
3. A serious problem regarding the implementation of the New START Treaty by the US side persists. Russia and the United States were to have cut all their available strategic offensive arms to levels stipulated by the Treaty’s Article II by February 5, 2018. Washington admitted that Russia had completely fulfilled its obligation. However, we cannot confirm that the United States has attained the levels stipulated by the Treaty.
The United States notes that its arsenal includes 800 deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers and strategic-missile launchers. This figure was obtained through manipulations that cannot be called correct from the contractual standpoint, rather than through actual cuts. In all, 56 launchers of submarine-launched ballistic missiles and 41 B-52H heavy bombers are no longer accounted for in the Treaty because they have allegedly been converted and can no longer deliver nuclear weapons. However, the Russian side is unable to verify and confirm or refute the results of this “conversion,” as stipulated by p. 3 of section I of chapter 3 of the New START Treaty’s Protocol. Washington’s refusal to account for four silo-based launchers, used for personnel-training purposes, under the pretext that they rank among silo training launchers, not stipulated by the Treaty, is also illegitimate.
On the whole, the number of US strategic offensive arms not accounted for in the Treaty compares with the overall nuclear potential of the United Kingdom and France. A lengthy search for mutually acceptable solutions to this by the parties to the Treaty has failed to eliminate the problem. We consider it necessary to ensure an adequate resolution of this matter that obviously undermines the Treaty’s viability and directly influences prospects for extending it. We will continue to urge the US side to unfailingly honour the New START Treaty.
4. Over and over again, the Americans are trying to portray themselves as impeccably compliant with the NPT. However, the situation regarding Washington’s violation of its key provisions does not change from year to year.
We are forced once again to point to the fact that the United States is drawing the non-nuclear NATO member states into participation in the so-called joint nuclear missions. These missions include elements of nuclear planning and development of practical skills in handling American non-strategic nuclear weapons with the direct involvement of representatives of non-nuclear member countries that host the bases. This practice actually constitutes a gross violation by the US of Article I of the NPT, which prohibits nuclear countries from transferring nuclear weapons and control of them to non-nuclear countries (as for the US allies, they are violating Article II of the NPT, which prohibits non-nuclear countries from accepting nuclear weapons or control of them) .
In this context, the United States has implemented a series of programmes in recent years for an unprecedented major upgrade of all components of its nuclear arsenal, including non-strategic nuclear weapons. Among other things, the United States intends to deploy new nuclear air bombs of varying power and increased accuracy in Europe for use in NATO’s joint nuclear missions. With such weapons, the “threshold” of use of nuclear weapons is significantly reduced, and this is fraught with disastrous consequences.
We express our concern about the statements by American officials that the practice of joint nuclear missions and, generally, NATO’s nuclear policy allegedly “favourably” influence the nuclear non-proliferation regime, as some of the states involved have found it possible to forego their own nuclear weapons. Washington does not want to see the vicious logic here: these joint nuclear missions in fact involve preparations for using nuclear weapons with the participation of non-nuclear states, in Europe, in the 21st century. What kind of strengthening of the nuclear non-proliferation regime are we talking about?
We urge the United States to return all of its non-strategic nuclear weapons to the national territory, to eliminate the foreign infrastructure for rapid deployment of these weapons, and, of course, to completely abandon any exercises or training in nuclear weapons skills of the military personnel in countries that do not possess such weapons. This is the only reliable solution to the problem of violation of the NPT by the United States. This would be a significant positive contribution to the strengthening of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and international security in general.
5. A number of issues regarding the IAEA require clarification. Claims by the United States that non-declaring even very small amounts of nuclear material may be in breach of the Safeguards Agreement are an intentional misrepresentation. Article 28 of The Structure and Content of Agreements between the Agency and States Required in Connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (INFCIRC/153 (Corr.)) states that “the objective of safeguards is the timely detection of diversion of significant quantities of nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities to the manufacture of nuclear weapons or of other nuclear explosive devices or for purposes unknown.”
According to a definition in the IAEA Safeguards Glossary (3.14), significant quantity is “the approximate amount of nuclear material for which the possibility of manufacturing a nuclear explosive device cannot be excluded.”
Therefore, the claim by the United States that non-declaring a very small quantity of nuclear material is a violation (moreover, it is also unclear what it is a violation of, the NPT or the Safeguards Agreement) is an intentional exaggeration that creates serious problems for the non-proliferation regime. For certain states, even detected natural uranium dust is considered non-compliance. Then, as is sometimes the case, the United States begins to spin the issue by throwing in respective draft resolutions of the IAEA Board of Governors, etc. For other countries, the disappearance of hundreds of grams of nuclear material and their inability to explain the disappearance for many years is “overlooked” by the Americans.
In this context, we cannot help but mention Syria. The Americans are again stirring up unsubstantiated allegations that this country is violating the Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. We do not see any grounds for such allegations. This is yet another example of the NPT being used to settle a political score. IAEA Director General’s Syria reports confirm that its declared nuclear material has not been diverted to other purposes, which indicates that Damascus is fulfilling its direct obligations under the comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.
6. We would also like to single out two aspects that the United States is unlikely to include in the final version of its report.
First, this implies to the matter of the establishment of a region free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East under a 1995 resolution on the Middle East that was supported by all countries, parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Participants in the 2010 NPT Review Conference approved a decision to convene a conference on establishing a region free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East by Russia, the UK and the US. However, the conference was never convened due to the position of Washington that believed that more time was required to carry out the preparations for the event. Later on, the US, the UK and Canada vetoed the approval of the final document of the 2015 NPT Review Conference. As we understand, this can be explained by a reluctance to support its Middle East section formalising the provisions on the resumption of the work to convene the conference. Today, the United States completely refuses to discuss the matter concerning a region free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, as part of the NPT, and to fulfil its obligations under the 1995 resolution and other decisions passed under the NPT. Therefore the US does not comply with the decisions of the NPT Review Conference.
Second, the US administration refuses to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) which is a common asset of all its participants and which is called on to benefit the entire humankind. Therefore it should not become a hostage to any ill-conceived decisions of certain countries. The situation with the US highlights the opposite. For the first time a state whose ratification is required to enact the treaty has officially stated that it does not intend to ratify the CTBT either today or in the future. This was preceded by a long period of uncertainty. For two decades, Washington showed its inability to ratify the Treaty, although the US executive branch repeatedly advocated this move. Earlier on, some hope persisted that it would become possible to preserve the Treaty, no matter what. However, today Washington has virtually eliminated all prospects for enacting the CTBT. The situation is alarming.
7. A few years ago, the Russian side decided to suspend the implementation of the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA). This resulted from a radical change in the situation by comparison with what was the case at the moment of its signing and ratification. The reason was Washington’s unacceptable actions.
This Agreement was signed during a period when Russian-US relations were somewhat positive in nature. It came into force in 2011. At that time, there was some hope that the factor of force would not be so prominent in politics and that politically motivated methods of pressure, including sanctions, would become a thing of the past.
We had to suspend the PMDA and protocols thereto because during the period since 2011 the United States has taken a number of openly unfriendly steps against Russia, steps aimed at direct interference in Russian internal affairs. In 2014, the US introduced economic and political sanctions against Russian individuals and legal entities, using Crimea’s reunification with Russia as a pretext. Next, the US started an active build-up of its military presence in direct vicinity of Russian borders.
All of this was the main reason for the suspension of the PMDA under Article 62 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. For Russia, the circumstances that existed at the signing of the Treaty had radically changed.
Yet another reason for Russia’s decision was the US intention to diverge from the coordinated plutonium disposition method that was specified in the Agreement. Washington unilaterally set course for changing its plutonium disposition method, motivating this by the need to save money.
Under the Agreement, a change in the disposition method is only possible with the consent of both Parties. Russia did not give its consent. Moreover, the US side was informed that no consent of this kind would be forthcoming. Therefore, we regard the attempts to change the disposition method as gross non-compliance. The method that was specified in the Agreement (core uranium-plutonium fuel exposure) provides for an irreversible disposition, whereas the Washington-proposed method gives no such guarantee.
It will be recalled that the US changed its attitude towards the disposition method in question after Russia almost completed the construction of the installations needed to carry out its share of the commitments. By that time, therefore, Russia had largely financed the effort involved in plutonium disposition. But Washington’s PMDA-related actions are in line with a behaviour pattern it has been using on an increasingly wider scale. Its first step is to sign an agreement. Then it would delay its implementation (or ratification). After other partners carry out or almost carry out all of their commitments, it would demand that the terms of the agreement be replaced by something more beneficial for itself. This is obvious in the case of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test- Ban Treaty, JCPOA and other agreements signed by the US.
8. The authors of the report again mentioned Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty), which, in their opinion, contravenes international law. The report refers to a separate document which accuses Russia of “deploying armed forces in the territories of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine without their consent,” of not paying the corresponding share of the total expenses of the Joint Consultative Group (JCG) under the CFE Treaty and of not participating in the annual information sharing, which, they claim, prevents the United States from assessing the extent to which Russia “exceeds the limits” of the CFE-limited weapons and equipment in the flank zones. Moreover, in their interpretation, Russia’s exceeding the limits has “significant military consequences for the United States and NATO.”
In this regard, I would like to remind you that the United States and its allies have repeatedly circumvented the CFE Treaty’s limitations by expanding NATO. At the same time, they have avoided, in every possible way, the renewal of the conventional arms control regime in Europe (CACE) which Russia proposed in accordance with the changed military and political realities on the continent. A striking confirmation of this is their refusal to ratify the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty.
Only after realising that Russia was serious about suspending the CFE, did the US and its allies start talking about “the need to decide the future of CACE,” out of necessity. However, their attempts to use the dialogue on this issue as a lever to pressure Russia ultimately led to its freezing.
While in words they express a commitment to preserving, strengthening and modernising conventional arms control regime in Europe, the US and NATO are in fact focusing their efforts on “restraining” Russia and further changing the balance of forces in Europe in their favour. The attempts by the US to interpret “flexibly” the provisions of the Russia-NATO Founding Act on “substantial combat forces,” along with the buildup of heavy weapons and military equipment at NATO’s forward-based units and storage facilities in Europe are a very dangerous balancing act on the verge of violating this crucial document. To argue that Russia has “exceeded” the “flank” limit sublevels of the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty, which has not even been ratified by Washington, is yet again putting the blame on someone else.
As to the legal aspects of the suspension of the CFE Treaty, the Russian side has repeatedly and convincingly demonstrated the validity of this step. We are perplexed about the point made in the report about this step being “in conflict” with international law – especially after the US has suspended the implementation of the INF Treaty, which, like the CFE Treaty, does not directly imply this possibility. The double standards and manipulation of public opinion in Washington’s approach in this context are obvious.
Taking into account the above, it does not make sense to return to a discussion of the implementation of the hopelessly outdated CFE Treaty.
As for the prospects for developing the new CACE regime on the principles of equal and indivisible security, and balancing the rights and obligations of the parties, they should be considered in the context of NATO’s abandoning the policy of military “containment” of Russia in Europe and normalisation of relations with the Russian Federation, including in military cooperation. So far, this has not happened.
9. The published summary of the report is quite terse about the implementation of the Vienna Document 2011 On Confidence- And Security-Building Measures and The Treaty on Open Skies. Russia will be able to give a detailed comment when the full report is published.
So far, we have to note that the United States is making unsubstantiated allegations against Russia that are unrelated to the report, accusing it of “aggressive actions in Europe” and neglecting basic international principles. The United States puts into question Russia’s complete implementation of the Vienna Document without even trying to substantiate this confrontational statement. Again it is promoting the need to revise or modernise the Vienna Document, but all of its participants, including the United States, know well that a substantive discussion of this issue is only possible when NATO and its members abandon their policy of containing Russia and when the future of the CACE regime is determined jointly.
As in the previous years, the report does not say anything about problems some NATO countries have with fulfilling their obligations, or about Kiev being unable to implement the Vienna Document, or the undermining of The Treaty on Open Skies as a result of Tbilisi’s actions.
10. Over the past years the US Department of State in its reports has been seeking to expose the gaps in the disclosures by Russia under Article III of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). This year’s novelty consisted of including groundless accusations of the alleged involvement of Russia in an assassination attempt using a military-grade nerve agent against Russian nationals Sergey Skripal and Yulia Skripal in the UK. Based on this absurd assumption, the authors of the report concluded that Russia concealed part of the information about the Soviet chemical weapons programme.
The Russian Federation has disclosed its stockpiles of chemical weapons in keeping with the CWC, and this disclosure was confirmed by the OPCW during its initial inspections. Accordingly, Washington is trying to question the OPCW’s competence. In pursuing its political aims, the US intentionally undermines the authority the OPCW has earned as an effective, successful and exclusively technical international body in charge of disarmament and non-proliferation of WMDs.
It should be recalled that no evidence of the involvement of Russian nationals in the Salisbury incident was presented, and that neither the Porton Down laboratory, nor OPCW experts were able to identify the country of origin of the chemical that was found in Great Britain. At the same time, we know from open sources that research on nerve agents was conducted in the United States since the 1980s, including compounds referred to in the West as Novichok. Patents were obtained for various inventions related to using nerve agents of this class. A total of some 140 patents were issued regarding the use of these agents and the protection against them.
It should also be recalled that it is the United States, not Russia, that remains the only CWC state-party that still possesses a substantial arsenal of chemical weapons. Despite its considerable financial and technological capabilities, the US has not been pressed to rid itself of its stockpiles of this kind of WMD. Russia expects Washington to find multiple pretexts to once again delay the performance of its fundamental commitments under the CWC to fully eliminate chemical weapons.
Regular mentions in US Department of State reports of the destruction of unidentified chemical weapons raises serious questions. Considering the high level of chemistry expertise in the US, statements of this kind are somewhat perplexing. We cannot rule out the fact that in making these statements the US is seeking to conceal its undeclared chemical warfare activities. Russia has been seeking clarifications through the OPCW, but so far to no avail.
Once again, the report contains groundless accusations against Syria regarding the alleged involvement of its government in a number of chemical weapons incidents in this country. To support these insinuations, the report refers to statements by former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. Allegations on Russia’s involvement in the chemical incident in Douma, Syria, on April 7, 2018 are outright absurd as well as unacceptable.
It was Russia that called for a prompt international investigation of this incident and, together with Syria, ensured the necessary conditions for the work of OPCW experts on the ground. Russian military personnel provided extensive evidence that the Douma chemical attack was actually a staged incident. Against this backdrop, instead of taking part in expert work, the US and its allies opted for conducting missile strikes against the suburbs of Damascus. They carried out these strikes on the eve of the arrival of OPCW inspectors, making it impossible to start the investigation on time.
The Foreign Ministry took note of the claims contained in the report regarding the alleged development in Russia of agents that affect the central nervous system (referred to as the “incapacitating chemical agents”) and the alleged plans to use them for military purposes. Statements of this kind are especially cynical considering that the US maintains its reservation to the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, whereby it has the right to retaliate with incapacitating chemical agents, which is prohibited under CWC Article I. Moreover, US President’s Executive Order 11850 of April 8, 1975 allows, under certain circumstances, to use anti-riot chemical agents for military purposes, which is expressly prohibited by the same article of the Convention.
By making these accusations against Moscow, Washington may be seeking to conceal serious problems related to massive imports to the US of these incapacitating agents, including fentanyl that is widely used for making synthetic narcotics.
The only thing that we can agree with from this part of the US report is the conclusion about the growing threat of terrorist groups operating in Syria and Iraq getting access to toxic chemicals and using them for their purposes. Considering the limited potential of the CWC in counter-terrorism efforts, back in 2016 Russia came forward with the initiative to draft an international convention for countering chemical and biological terrorism and proposed adopting a UN Security Council resolution to support collective efforts in fighting the threats of chemical terrorism. Unfortunately, Western countries led by the US have been blocking these initiatives under far-fetched pretexts.
The fact that Washington deliberately ignores the CWC provisions on bilateral consultations as a way for discussing contentious issues is a matter of concern. The United States has instead opted for spreading fake information in order to mislead the international public opinion. The United States is clearly not willing to engage in constructive, professional and equitable dialogue on this topic within the OPCW, as required by the CWC.
11. The US is once again making claims against Russia based on assumptions regarding the alleged link between Soviet biological warfare programmes and Russia’s civilian research in microbiology. This speculation is absolutely groundless. It has to be emphasised that all questions related to Soviet biological activity in the context of BTWC have long been addressed. We view the continued assertions by the United States as an attempt to turn the attention of the international community away from its own questionable activity in this sensitive sphere.
The Pentagon’s efforts to deploy medical-biological laboratories in various parts of the world, including in the direct vicinity of Russian border, is a matter of serious concern. It is well known that these laboratories employ US military experts who are doing research, among other things, on extremely dangerous communicable diseases. Considering that the US maintains its reservation under the 1925 Geneva Protocol which bans the use of bacteriological weapons, it begs the question of the true goals behind medical-biological activities of this kind.
Heightened scrutiny is warranted for the operations of the so-called Lugar Centre for Public Health Research, a high-level biological security research laboratory near Tbilisi (Georgia). This facility is operated by a special unit of US Army. Among other things, it conducts extremely worrying research on using insects as carriers of highly dangerous biological and infectious agents. The US does not provide any information on dual-use activities at this site as part of BTWC confidence-buildings measures.
Once again, we have to expose Washington for its hypocritical position whereby it formally supports strengthening the BTWC, while continuing for more than two decades to block the adoption of a legally binding protocol to the convention on introducing verification mechanisms. It remains unclear to us what prevents the United States from agreeing to verification mechanisms under this protocol, if the United States claims it is not engaged in any activity that would run counter to the BTWC.
It has to be stressed that the United States issued patents for various inventions that raise concerns in terms of compliance with the BTWC, including in terms of corresponding domestic laws and effective oversight. Washington has to take urgent measures to remedy the situation.
We call on the United States to comply with its BTWC commitments in a responsible manner, just like Russia does, by taking concrete steps to address all concerns raised by Russia and helping strengthen the regime of this disarmament instrument that is so important for international security.
We support the determination expressed in the US Department of State’s report to monitor advanced biotechnology and prevent non-state actors from getting their hands on biological weapons. In this connection, we invite the United States to support Russia’s initiatives to create a research and advisory committee within the BTWC framework, as well as draft an international convention on fighting chemical and biological terrorism as part of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
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Further comments will be provided if necessary after the release of the full version of the US report.