ZAKHAROVA: US Refusal to Extend New START, Moves to Upgrade Nuclear Forces Increase Possibility of Their Use

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MOSCOW/WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States seeks to provide new capabilities to its nuclear forces, which increases the possibility of their use, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing on Friday.

“We would like to point out that Washington is not only upgrading its nuclear forces but also seeks to provide them with new capabilities, which significantly increases the possibility of their use. Particularly concerning are the United States’ moves to expand the range of low-powered weapons, including the development and deployment of munitions designed for strategic delivery vehicles,” she stated, TASS reported.

“This clearly lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons,” Zakharova pointed out.

According to her, Washington seems to “consider a nuclear standoff as an actual political option and is now working to create the necessary potential”. Zakharova added that in order to make those destructive actions “seem more legitimate”, the United States referred to Russia and China as external threats.

“Unrestrained military buildup with no laws to limit it will just lead nowhere. A far more effective way to protect national security is to carry on the policy of arms control and building ties with other countries, which is what we are again calling on the US to do,” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman emphasized.

Russia is concerned about attempts by some US politicians to exploit the rhetoric around the Open Skies Treaty in domestic political gambling, whereas there is no official information on Washington’s potential withdrawal from the accord, Zakharova noted.

“We are gravely concerned about statements made by some high-ranking officials, US legislators who are trying to make the treaty a bargaining chip in domestic political gambling,” Zakharova commented, stating, “I would like to inform you that, to date, no official statements have been made regarding the United States’ potential withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty.”

“We consider the treaty to be an important mechanism for ensuring European security and transparency in the military realm, along with the 2011 Vienna Document on Confidence-and Security-Building Measures,” the diplomat stressed.

According to Zakharova, Russia has been in touch with its American partners, openly briefing them on its stance and providing an impartial assessment of the situation regarding that document.

“We hope that common sense and constructive approach by all parties to the treaty will help prevent its collapse,” she stated.

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in Helsinki on March 24, 1992, by the member states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and went into force on January 1, 2002. The purpose of the deal is to help build confidence between countries through the improvement of mechanisms to control military activities and compliance with arms control agreements.

Over the past several years, the US has been accusing Moscow of exercising a selective approach to the treaty’s implementation and violating some of its provisions. Russia has been laying counter-claims to the United States. In 2017, Washington imposed restrictions on Russian observation flights over its territory under this treaty. This move was followed by Moscow’s tit-for-tat response.

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