11 July / 2015

COMMENT BY THE INFORMATION AND PRESS DEPARTMENT ON THE US STATE DEPARTMENT’S REPORT ON ADHERENCE TO AND COMPLIANCE WITH ARMS CONTROL, NONPROLIFERATION, AND DISARMAMENT AGREEMENTS AND COMMITMENTS

On June 5, the US Department of State published its 2015 Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments. Apart fr om the information on the United States’ adherence to its obligations, the report provides assessments of adherence to international agreements by other countries. This includes a number of complaints about the Russian Federation over the alleged violations of its obligations under several international agreements.

We note that the United States continues to act as the supreme certifier who has assumed the right to give other countries marks for their compliance with their commitments under arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament agreements.

It is obvious that such documents are primarily designed to service Washington’s political interests and are therefore openly subjective, prejudiced and biased. These documents are noted for numerous speculations, exaggerations, forced arguments, false messages and distortions. Considering this, the 2015 report, just as all the previous reports, can hardly be described as a serious document that reflects the real state of affairs in the sphere of non-proliferation and arms control.

We take particular note that the United States did not miss the chance to use this report to present its allegations of Russia’s “occupation” and “attempted annexation” of Crimea, as well as “provocative actions against Ukraine” in violation of its OSCE commitments, including the 2011 Vienna Document. Such assumptions come in stark contradiction with reality when the cart is put before the horse.

The Crimea’s return to the Russian Federation was carried out in full compliance with international law as a result of free expression of will by the residents of the peninsula, when over 96 percent voted in favor of reunification with Russia.

As for the allegations regarding Russia’s ongoing provocations against Ukraine in general, such claims are totally groundless and are only preventing the international community from understanding the genuine causes of the Ukraine crisis. It is all the more strange that these allegations are made by the country, which, despite its repeatedly declared commitment to the maintenance and strengthening of international peace and security, has had a hand in destabilizing the situation both in Ukraine and other regions in the past few years.

While making its unfounded claims, the United States, unlike Russia, has not only failed to take any practical steps to settle the Ukrainian crisis and prevent the humanitarian catastrophe in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, but has actually prodded Kiev towards keeping up a fratricidal internal conflict.

The US State Department report once again repeats the unfounded accusations against Russia of violating its obligations under the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty). In fact, it follows from the report that in 2014 Russia possessed, produced and flight-tested ground-launched cruise missiles with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km as well as launchers of such missiles.

This assertion is completely false. It is no coincidence that the United States is unable to provide specific facts to support its position and only refers to some “credible classified sources”. By definition, their reliability can not be verified.

It would appear as if the main goal of the US propaganda campaign over the INF Treaty is to discredit Russia and at the same time to divert public attention from US activities which are based on a very loose interpretation of the INF Treaty provisions wh ere they prevent the US from creating weapon systems that are important for Washington.

Thus with regard to INF compliance we are deeply concerned about US plans to deploy vertical missile launch systems (VLS) at missile defense bases in Romania and Poland. We assess that these systems can launch both the Standard Missile-3 antimissile interceptors and the Tomahawk intermediate-range cruise missiles. Such a deployment would constitute a direct violation of the INF Treaty.

Questions arise with regard to the use in missile defense testing of target missiles with characteristics similar to those of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles. There are reasons to believe that under the guise of such tests the United States may be working on certain aspects of the production and employment of prohibited ballistic missiles.

We also note that the unmanned combat aerial vehicles that the United States has been manufacturing for years fall under the INF Treaty definition of ground-based cruise missiles, in particular taking into account the common understanding on the definition of the term “weapon-delivery vehicle”, as recorded in the exchange of diplomatic notes between the Soviet Union and the United States on May 12, 1988.

We have repeatedly called on the United States to have a substance-based expert discussion on INF Treaty compliance issues. However, the United States clearly prefers to use the “loudspeaker diplomacy” toolbox. We see this, above all, as evidence of the weakness of the US position and of its lack of confidence in its own case, especially when the discussion is based on facts and not on allegations.

We have taken note of statements by Pentagon officials to the effect that the United States is considering military response options in view of alleged Russian “violations”, up to potentially deploying intermediate and shorter-range missiles, which are prohibited under the INF Treaty, close to Russian borders. Obviously, such actions would amount to a complete destruction of the INF Treaty regime by the United States, with all the ensuing consequences.

We urge the United States to abide fully by its INF Treaty obligations and not to jeopardize the viability of this document.

The US approach to compliance with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear weapons (NPT) raises a number of concerns. The practice of conducting so-called joint nuclear missions by the United States and its NATO allies is a grave violation of the Treaty. As it is known, Article I of the NPT forbids nuclear-weapon states to transfer nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices to any recipient whatsoever, either directly or indirectly. We have repeatedly drawn the attention of our US colleagues to the fact that the participation of non-nuclear-weapon European NATO members in joint nuclear planning and in nuclear weapon employment training involving dual-capable aircraft, their crews, airbase infrastructure and ground services of these states openly contradicts the spirit and the letter of the NPT. However, the United States persists in pursuing the same practice.

We believe that this problem has only one solution. All US non-strategic nuclear weapons should be returned to their national territory, their deployment abroad should be banned, the infrastructure for their rapid deployment should be dismantled. No training (exercises) related to preparing and employing nuclear weapons should be conducted by the personnel of the armed forces of states that do not possess such weapons.

The persistent refusal of the United States to engage in elaboration of international agreements on the prevention of placement of weapons in outer space causes grave concerns. Washington continues to be driven by its national principled policy. In particular, it provides for the use of preventive coercive measures even in case of only contemplated hostile actions from other states, which in itself contradicts the norms of international law. For example, the paper of the US Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee JP 3-14 “Space Operations” authorizes “preventive diplomatic, informational, military, and economic measures” against an adversary’s space capability.

Such provisions most evidently echo the draft Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities (ICoC) that the United States has been so vigorously supporting since 2012. Specifically, this regards the ICoC provisions, which entitle one state to take unsanctioned, out-of-jurisdiction unilateral coercive actions against space assets of other nations.

Clearly, such approaches and the US backed initiatives along with the invariable ambition of the US administration to preserve total freedom of action in outer space can hardly be considered as facilitating international efforts to ensure equal and indivisible security for all and to maintain global stability.

The United States inconsistent stance on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) obviously contradicts its alleged commitment to strengthening of the non-proliferation regime. Despite repeated declarations of intent to ratify the Treaty and to make efforts to bring it into force as soon as possible, no practical steps have been made to this effect. The Washington arguments that in the United States the conditions for ratifying the Treaty are not favourable yet do not stand up to criticism. Given that the remaining countries whose ratification is needed for the Treaty to come into effect act, to a large extent, with an eye to the United States, the Washington “stagnant” position appears to be a major hurdle in the way to turning the CTBT into an effective international legal instrument.

It is noteworthy that the United States has failed to ratify the key international legal instruments in the area of nuclear security: the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. At the same time Washington attempts to assume a role of the main and privileged actor in this area. We believe that we are entitled to expect a more responsible approach from a the country with such leadership “ambitions” in the area of nuclear security. Hopefully, the United States will still be able to display such an approach in practice by ratifying the abovementioned documents.

Regrettably, the United States has long chosen the tactics of spreading provocative conjectures and insinuations about other states on the issues related to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) instead of fruitfully participating in the efforts of the international community to strengthen the Convention. Apparently, it serves as a smokescreen to hide the United States’ own poor record regarding the compliance with the BWC.

For example; take the case with the scandal about new instances of sending out live anthrax samples, a potential biological weapons agent. Just like in 2001, when a similar incident occurred, the source of the deadly infection was Pentagon’s military biological facilities: back then it was the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland, whereas now it was the Lothar Salomon Life Sciences Test Facility (LSTF) at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. Due to the sending out of anthrax samples from the Lothar Salomon Life Sciences Test Facility, an increased risk of a highly dangerous infection threatened not only the US population but also that of other countries: Canada and Australia. The shipment of bacteria to the US military facility in the third country, Osan Air Base in South Korea, is particularly alarming.

The Pentagon’s activities on deploying its medical and biological laboratories next to the Russian borders raise deep concerns. The most salient example in this respect is the R.G. Lugar Center for Public Health Research in a suburb of Tbilisi, a laboratory of a high biological isolation level. The Center is “home” to a medical research unit of the US army, a branch of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR). The US and Georgian authorities make efforts to conceal the true content and focus of the activities of this US army unit, which studies highly infectious diseases. The Pentagon is also trying to introduce similar undercover military medical-biological facilities into other CIS countries.

This worrying activity of Pentagon is being conducted in areas directly related to the BWC against the background of apparent lack of interest on the part of the US Administration in strengthening the Convention as a tool of mutual security. It is a known fact that in 2001 the United States unilaterally disrupted multilateral talks in Geneva on designing a BWC verification mechanism, and has been resisting the resumption of the talks ever since. The decade-long efforts of the international community to strengthen the Convention have been derailed.

We could not help but notice that the US Department of State report reiterates the already trite argument that the United States “cannot certify” the fulfillment of Russia’s statements regarding the amount of stockpile of toxic substances, the number of former chemical weapons production facilities, production capacities – implying that Russia does not fully comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

We would like to remind the US that compliance with the CWC remains within sole competence of the recognised international Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Washington should not take up OPCW functions, particularly, because the organisation itself has never had any complaints regarding the credibility of reports provided by the Russian Federation.

The reference to alleged gaps in the fulfillment of the obligations by other countries is apparently intended to shade Washington’s own omissions and violations. Specifically, it is known that during their presence in Iraq, US-led NATO troops, without any international supervision or OPCW approval, neglected security requirements and destroyed Iraq’s munitions with chemical weapons that they obtained, which caused significant harm to the health of the personnel involved and environment. Stating that last year Syria was protracting the removal of chemical weapons from its territory, which was carried out under the extreme circumstances of a domestic armed conflict, the authors of the report somehow “forgot” about the delays in the destruction of Syria’s toxic weapons at Veolia in the United States, which resulted in the destruction deadline being pushed back to November of this year.

Regarding the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), we do not think it reasonable to revisit this subject. The actions of the United States and its allies determined the fate of this treaty as they attempted, with persistence and stubbornness, to promote their own geopolitical interests through instruments of conventional arms control in Europe.

A serious discussion on a new arrangement to replace CFE which should be based on balance of interests of all parties, including Russia, is possible if the US and other NATO member states abandon this approach that has discredited itself.

Like last year, the 2015 report by the US State Department enumerates US complaints about other parties’ compliance with the Treaty on Open Skies (OST).

Regarding Russia’s alleged its own airspace restrictions, we will reiterate that the limitations on flight altitudes over the Moscow and Chechnya restricted zones are due to flight safety regulations.

The maximum flight distance for the Kaliningrad Region was established under OST provisions and the related decision of the Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC). This procedure allows for the same efficiency of observation that is provided by flights over other regions of the Russian Federation and neighboring countries (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia).

Restrictions for Open Skies flights near the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were introduced in accordance with OST provisions, according to which the flight path of an observation aircraft shall not be closer than ten kilometers from the border with an neighboring state that is not a State Party to the Treaty. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not State Parties to the OST.

The report also claims that Russia refused to provide priority flight clearance for Open Skies flights. It is worth to recall that, under the Treaty, Open Skies flights “shall take priority over any regular air traffic”, that is, scheduled airline flights.

We are surprised by the US insistent attempts to discredit Russia’s decision to close airfields on all declared national holidays. Other OST States Parties widely use this practice.

The Russian Federation has encouraged the United States to determine a procedure for the observation of areas and territories outside its continental area on several occasions. Unfortunately, we have not received any reply, even a preliminary one, to our inquiries. This unresolved issue leaves parts of the US territories out of observation activities, which is the major violation of the OST.

As for several States Parties’ requests for clarification of “unusual military activities” in 2014 under the provisions contained in Chapter III of the Vienna Document, Russia has, on several occasions, made it clear that its armed forces are not conducting any unusual or unscheduled military activities that must be reported under the Vienna Document. We have repeatedly pointed out that the routine activities of the Russian armed forces within the national territory of the Russian Federation do not threaten the security of the OSCE participating States. No country that has requested clarification under Chapter III of the Vienna Document was able to provide any evidence of Russia’s “unusual military activity”. Nor have inspections identified any significant military activity by the Russian armed forces.

We have to say that this disregard for the findings of inspections is doing a huge disservice to the regime of confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs). It appears that the CSBMs regime under the Vienna Document is only effective in “good weather” conditions since during crises it is not used as intended, but to demonstrate support for one party and to put political pressure on the other.

The only conclusion we can draw from the 2015 State Department report is that the United States continues to rely on propaganda and misinformation to the detriment of careful, thorough and meaningful discussions of issues pertaining to the signatory states’ compliance with their commitments under arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament agreements. Our experience of relations with our US colleagues on these issues shows that Washington’s policy is based on a weak body of evidence in support of its claims about Russia’s alleged violations. This policy also rejects any diligent work with all the concerned parties within specialised formats.

As always Russia is ready for such work.