BY JOHN OKEKE
Comment by the Information and Press Department on the United States’ report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments (ACNPD)
We have taken notice of the distortion of facts and open falsifications in the annual report of the US Department of State to Congress, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments (ACNPD). As in many previous years, Washington is trying to create an impression of responsibility regarding its compliance with the related treaties and agreements. But it is common knowledge that the US administration has actually entered a path of dismantling the international legal framework of the ACNPD, a policy that is undermining global security.
Instead of providing an objective analysis of US compliance with ACNPD agreements, the report, just like all the preceding reports, is focused on other countries. The US administration is applying its traditional tactics of shifting the burden of responsibility onto others in order to divert the attention of the international public from US actions to dismantle the system of ACNPD treaties and agreements which developed over decades. As usual, Washington does not provide any proof of its allegations.
When commenting on the US State Department’s reports on the ACNPD, we pointed out several times that our American colleagues have no right to assess the implementation of arms control agreements by other countries. All international agreements in this sphere include detailed and coordinated verification and control mechanisms to assess and ensure signatories’ compliance with their commitments. In some cases special international organisations have been created for this purpose.
Washington’s aspiration to take over the power to judge does not have an international legal leg to stand on and cannot be used to draw conclusions, let alone bringing charges against the activities of sovereign states, which have the same rights in international organisations as the United States.
By contrast, the US government practice of denying visas to the leading Russian ACNPD experts who need them to attend the relevant events in the United States, including UN events, is yet another proof of Washington’s hypocrisy, which is silently condoned by the Western countries.
We would like to point out the following things in the 2020 report of the US State Department.
We would like to point out that the US allegations regarding the INF Treaty are unreliable or even completely false. They are based on unsubstantiated “assessments” by US intelligence agencies of Russia’s compliance with the provisions of the treaty, which the United States has deliberately demolished. As usual, the authors of the report fail to mention the irrefutable evidence of actions which the United States has been taking for years in violation of the INF Treaty.
We have informed the international community more than once and in a most detailed manner about the real state of affairs regarding the parties’ compliance with the treaty and the situation around it. This can be seen from the numerous comments made by the Foreign Ministry about the State Department’s previous reports, as well as other materials on this issue, including Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s briefing of November 26, 2018 and the statement he made in Patriot Park on January 23, 2019.
Since the INF Treaty has been terminated, there is little point in going over yet again all the events that led to its demolition. However, we would like to once again mention a key event, that is, the bilateral consultations held at the level of deputy foreign ministers in Geneva on January 15, 2019. On that day, the last chance to save the INF Treaty was lost despite the Russian efforts and because of the destructive stand taken by the United States. We believe it would be wise to once again draw attention to that Russian-US meeting, which the State Department only mentioned in passing and with its essence misrepresented.
The Russian delegation went to Geneva with a clear intention to ensure progress in the settlement of mutual complaints on the basis of reciprocity. We thoroughly prepared for the meeting in order to find realistic and workable solutions, and hence save the treaty, which allowed us to put forth a package of practical proposals.
In particular, we proposed discussing measures that would enable us to lay bare the US complaints about the 9М729 missile and to prove that its effective range is below 500 km. We planned to demonstrate the missile and its launcher and to hold a briefing to explain how it differs from the other models about which the United States had no complaints. We were ready to coordinate the parameters of such a demonstration with the American side. In fact, it was a goodwill gesture designed to demonstrate our unprecedented transparency that by far exceeded our obligations under the INF Treaty.
We also invited the United States to discuss reciprocal measures, including in the spirit of transparency, regarding Russian concerns about the universal Мk-41 launchers of the Aegis Ashore system, the unmanned combat aerial vehicles, which fall within the treaty’s definition of intermediate-range ground-based cruise missiles, as well as the target missiles whose characteristics are similar to those of the prohibited intermediate- and shorter-range ballistic missiles. We presented to the Americans our views on the possible settlement of these problems. By doing this, we demonstrated considerable flexibility and formulated workable solutions that essentially amounted to a compromise.
We firmly believe that the implementation of those measures, had they been accepted, would have opened the door to settling the crisis and preserving the INF Treaty, something the entire international community wanted us to do.
However, all these Russian initiatives were dismissed out of hand. The US representatives did not even want to analyse the essence and nuances of our proposals. We deeply regret that the Americans once again turned out to be unable to talk on the basis of reciprocity and to join a constructive dialogue. They blatantly refused to discuss the technical characteristics of the 9М729 missile. They told us openly that not even a test flight of the Russian missile monitored by inspectors would satisfy them, adding that all of this was unimportant compared to the absolutely reliable intelligence data they allegedly had. As usual, they refused to disclose that data for the purpose of joint analysis and verification.
Likewise, the US delegation refused to discuss Russian concerns and outright rejected the very idea of reciprocity.
It should be noted that we nevertheless held a short discussion on the Mk-41 launchers of the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defence system, and confirmed our concerns over their potential use for non-declared purposes. The American military openly admitted that these launchers could be easily adapted for launching cruise and ballistic missiles of various ranges and that the only limiting factor was that the United States had no intention of doing this at that given moment. In other words, they actually admitted their plans for deploying a universal strategic platform with missile and anti-missile capabilities near the Russian border.
Instead of discussing ways to alleviate mutual concerns, the American delegation once again attempted to use the meeting to demand a verifiable liquidation of all our 9М729 missiles together with their launchers and auxiliary equipment. It turned out that the Americans had worked out the practical aspects of the liquidation procedure in advance. It was the only issue related to the treaty which the Americans deemed necessary to work out in practice over the five years of our discussions.
The consultations showed that the Americans’ sole intention was to advance an ultimatum we would never accept. Washington was fully aware of its total unacceptability to Russia, but it deliberately prevented any change while derailing the discussion.
It became clear at the Geneva discussions that Washington had already made a decision. This only confirmed our earlier impression that the United States had done everything possible from the very beginning to avoid analysing the essence of their complaints about Russia. As the result, we could not determine whether the US complaints were based on mistaken intelligence data or whether they were a deliberate fake created to achieve a concrete political objective. There have been precedents of both. Anyway, everything pointed to Washington’s firm and unshakeable intention to destroy the INF Treaty.
It should be said, for justice sake, that our American colleagues have provided a few reliable facts in their report. For example, it is true that the Russian side has not admitted to violating the INF Treaty. This is definitely so, because we have not violated the treaty. It is likewise true that the United States has never demanded that we demonstrate the 9М729 missile, which we ourselves eventually proposed and did. Washington has not shown any interest in that demonstration, which speaks volumes about the essence of the American stand.
At the same time, the references to Russia’s alleged refusal to answer any questions about testing the so-called treaty-violating 9М729 missile with a stationary launcher to a range prohibited under the treaty are an unscrupulous attempt to distort the essence of the sides’ technical dialogue. When responding to the Americans’ numerous questions about that missile, we stated clearly that it was never launched from a fixed installation to a range equal to or greater than 500 kilometres. As we said, the Americans have not provided any proof of the opposite. Consequently, the discussion did not become really professional, despite our readiness.
There is one more notable element, which has been included in the State Department’s report for the first time. It is a reference to the President of Russia’s decision, made public in February 2019, to create a ground-based version of the Kalibr sea-launched intermediate-range cruise missile, which is a clear distortion of facts and a deliberate attempt to deceive the international community. The authors of the report indicate that this does not amount to a violation of the treaty but claim hypocritically that this is evidence of Russia’s refusal to return to full compliance.
This twisted logic is yet another distortion of reality when it comes to the general context and the sequence of events. Just turn a few pages of the report and you will see that according to official American information, the Pentagon started creating treaty-violating missiles back in late 2017. The authors of the report do not even mention the fact that back in 2013 the Pentagon proposed creating several variants of ground-based intermediate- and shorter-range missiles.
Neither does this report mention the fact that by 2017 the United States had prepared the groundwork for the creation and further improvement of such weapons by deploying the ground-based Mk-41 universal launchers and a long-standing programme of target missile tests. All of this was a clear violation of the treaty, and the substantive nature of Russian complaints was openly confirmed by the United States itself when it tested these weapons immediately after demolishing the INF Treaty.
Therefore, by February 2019 when the President of Russia adopted a decision on reciprocal measures (including the Kalibr system), the United States had been working for years to create treaty-violating weapons and the related technology, and had also financed the research and development of these new systems. It also announced the suspension of the treaty and the intention to withdraw from it. What is more, the report does not mention that Russia has clearly indicated that it would abandon the creation of a ground-based version of the Kalibr missile and other systems that are incompatible with the INF Treaty if the United States returned to full compliance with the treaty and relaunched dialogue to settle mutual complaints.
As the result, those who know the real facts about the situation around the INF Treaty regard this part of the State Department’s report as totally absurd. The essence of the matter is that despite the attempts to create a “parallel reality” around the treaty, the demolition of the INF Treaty, which is a pillar of European and global security, along with several other agreements, will forever remain on the conscience of decision-makers in the United States.
Tactical nuclear weapons
The State Department openly says in the report that the chapter on tactical nuclear weapons, which mentions the 1991-1992 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs), is a voluntary addition reporting. We are surprised in this context by the authors’ inconsistency: they have not said a word about the fate of the PNIs issued by President George H.W. Bush in the United States.
For reasons undefined, they have not mentioned the programmes of active modernisation and expansion of the US non-strategic nuclear arsenal, as well as the blurring of lines between non-strategic and strategic weapons. We would like to remind you about them:
– tactical nuclear warheads were supplied to part of the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs);
– preparations have begun to recreate sea-launched nuclear cruise missiles, which undermines one of the key elements of the US PNIs;
– the В61-12 variable yield aviation bomb, which can be used for a wide range of both tactical and strategic objectives, was put on combat duty, including for use by the United States’ NATO allies.
Meanwhile, the United States revised its doctrines to increase the role of nuclear weapons in various “escalation scenarios” and expand the possibility of their combat use, which is lowering the nuclear threshold and increasing the risk of a nuclear conflict.
The reasons provided in the report for American concerns about Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons and the fulfilment of its PNI pledges are based on references to Russian publications of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The authors clearly had to work hard to expand the unclassified part of the report.
We would like to point out that this innovative approach, according to which “voluntary additions” complement the report on adherence to and compliance with arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament agreements and commitments, could become the dominant trend in the near future amid Washington’s consistent demolition of the agreements under which the State Department is obliged to report to the legislators. The US withdrawal from the INF Treaty in 2019 terminated the treaty. In 2020, the United States decided to jettison the Treaty on Open Skies. In 2021, the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START or NST), the only treaty about which the United States has no complaints to Russia, whereas the United States itself exceeds the NST limit for the deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments by 101 weapons, could expire because of Washington’s stand.
If this trend persists, the very mention of disarmament will have to be removed from the title of the report, and arms control will soon follow suit.
Moratorium on nuclear tests. Threshold Test Ban Treaty
As expected, the United States does not provide any proof of Russia’s alleged violations of the moratorium on nuclear tests by conducting nuclear experiments that do not correspond to the US zero-yield standard. The authors admit that the United States does not know how many, if any, nuclear experiments Russia conducted in 2019. We would like to point out that Russia’s international commitments do not oblige it to respect any US standards in the sphere of nuclear tests.
The allegation seems to have been made to distract attention from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which the United States has refused to ratify, hence pushing it towards destruction. It appears that Washington is preparing the international community for its withdrawal from the so far effective in the US voluntary moratorium on nuclear tests, leading consequently to the demolition of the CTBT.
The authors use false reasoning to accuse Russia of violating the 1974 Soviet-US Treaty on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapon Tests (Threshold Test Ban Treaty or TTBT), under which the sides should notify each other of nuclear tests.
We would like to state officially that Russia continues to strictly comply with the TTBT, as well as with the CTBT provisions on nuclear tests, even though the latter treaty has not come into effect. Unlike the United States, Russia ratified the CTBT 20 years ago and has strictly complied with its obligations under it. We believe that any differences over compliance criteria can and should be settled within the framework of the CTBT after it comes into effect. We consider it counterproductive to discuss compliance with nuclear test ban provisions with the United States until it has ratified the treaty.
Biological Weapons Convention
Russia’s activities in the medical-biological sphere are completely peaceful and fully comply with the provisions of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention or BWC). Proof of this can be found in the information annually submitted by Russia within the framework of the confidence-building measures (CBMs) for the Convention.
The US has reiterated its fully unsubstantiated complaints about Russia’s non-compliance with the BWC based on the alleged connection between the Soviet Union’s BW programmes and Russia’s microbiology research. These speculations are yet another attempt to distract the international community from the US’s non-transparent and untoward activities in this sensitive sphere.
We have serious questions about the BW activities of the US Department of Defence, both direct and by proxy, in various parts of the world, including in direct proximity to Russia. By the way, the United States has not withdrawn reservations limiting the applicability of provisions of the Geneva Protocol (1925), which prohibits the use of bacteriological weapons. This makes one wonder about the real objectives of the Pentagon’s BW activities.
We have more than once raised the question of activities at the Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research in Georgia, where the US Army Medical Research Directorate-Georgia (USAMRD-G) is based. Our American colleagues prefer to keep silent about the research conducted by the military directorate, and they do not provide information on this under the BWC confidence-building measures.
The claims that the Pentagon and its affiliated organisations are focused on healthcare would amount to open deceit. Even an amateur could figure out that Georgia’s healthcare system does not need the assistance of American troops. The real reason for the deployment of US troops at the Richard Lugar Centre has not been disclosed. Moreover, the US explanation that the USAMRD-G is collecting biomaterial and monitoring the epidemiological situation in Georgia has only increased our concerns regarding its compliance with the BWC.
The argument that US-registered patents for drones delivering infected insects with especially dangerous infectious diseases, as well as various munitions carrying capsules with biological compounds for infecting people, are not a violation of the BWC is not tenable. It is obvious that such patents have not appeared out of the blue but rather, they are a result of deliberate research and experiments. It is also notable that our American colleagues chose to ignore our questions about the experiments conducted at the Richard Lugar Centre with plague bacteria that can develop biofilm protecting the organism from all known antibiotics.
In other words, the activities of the US Army Medical Research Directorate in Georgia clearly contravene the commitments of the United States and Georgia (as the host country that invited the US military) under Article IV of the BWC, which reads that each state party to the Convention shall take any necessary measures to prohibit and prevent the activities prohibited by the Convention within its territory, under its jurisdiction or under its control anywhere by anyone, including legal entities. We urge Washington and Tbilisi to act reasonably to immediately rectify the situation.
The first step in this direction would be an organised visit by Russian experts to the Richard Lugar Centre, provided that they were guaranteed access to all laboratory buildings, including the premises of the US military experts, which would ensure a genuine inspection of the Centre. We believe that this visit should be made in the bilateral format without any representatives of other countries (with the possible exception of the Pentagon personnel accredited at the Centre), or international and regional organisations. This will create the necessary conditions for a calm expert analysis of the situation.
We welcome the United States’ readiness for bilateral cooperation to remove mutual concerns. We believe that this can be done within the framework of a comprehensive and purposeful Russian-US dialogue on a wide range of questions related to the strengthening of the BWC. We reaffirm our openness to discussing any topics in the presence of representatives of the two countries’ concerned agencies. This proposal has been delivered to the American side.
We appeal to the United States, as a Depositary for the BWC, to take a responsible attitude to its commitments under the Convention and to take practical measures to strengthen the regime of this disarmament mechanism that is of great significance for international security. We hope the United States will revise its completely illogical position on the legally binding Protocol to the BWC with an effective verification mechanism. While supporting the Convention in word and traditionally presenting verification as a fundamental component of any effective arms control agreement, Washington has blocked any attempts to resume the creation of the Protocol since 2001.
We would welcome US support for other initiatives, including Russian ones, aimed at strengthening the organisational framework of the BWC. Special attention should be given to our proposal on improving the BWC confidence-building measures by including information in the annual reports about the Convention member states’ military biological activities conducted outside the national territory.
US noncompliance with the CWC and politicisation of the OPCW
The United States is the only signatory country of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) that still has a huge arsenal of chemical weapons (approximately 1,700 tonnes). Despite their impressive material, financial and technical capabilities, our American partners are in no hurry to get rid of this type of weapons of mass destruction.
Since the 1980s, the United States has been conducting research into nerve agents that have been denoted Novichok in the West. The US authorities have registered over 140 patents on the combat uses of these agents. Despite the US statements to the effect that the registration of patents does not entail the creation and manufacturing of chemical weapons prohibited by American laws and the CWC, the scale of these activities are clearly impressive and implies a serious research programme in this sphere.
The United States regularly destroys “unidentified” chemical agents. In light of the high standards of chemical research analysis in the United States, the description of chemical agents as “unidentified” may mean that, just as in the case of patents, this is part of undeclared military chemical activities.
The United States has not complied with its CWC commitment to notify the OPCW about the chemical weapons that it has left in other countries, in particular, Panama and Cambodia. Washington has refused to admit that the Pentagon has left US weapons in these countries even though OPCW experts have confirmed their American origin.
It was at the prompting of the United States and its allies that there were provocations in Syria with the use of warfare and toxic agents aimed at accusing Damascus authorities of using chemical weapons against civilians. As a rule, these incidents are organised by pseudo-humanitarian organisations, such as the White Helmets, financed by Western governments.
Between 2003 and 2009, the United States and Britain secretly removed from Iraq or destroyed there, on the spot, about 5,000 tonnes of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons, without notifying the OPCW or proper verification, using the open-air detonation method that is unsafe for people (American troops and Iraqi citizens have been injured in the process) and the environment. Our American – and British – partners refuse to discuss these matters.
The United States has not withdrawn reservations limiting the applicability of provisions of the Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (1925), which allows it to retaliate by using lethal and incapacitating chemical agents, which is prohibited under Article I of the CWC.
No reliable proof has been provided of the involvement of Russian citizens in the Salisbury incident. The country of origin of the substance found in Britain has not been established by experts either at Porton Down or at the OPCW. It should be said that research into this group of nerve agents has been conducted in the United States, Britain and a number of other NATO countries, as well as in the EU.
The OPCW has unambiguously and positively confirmed the completeness and correctness of the information provided by the Russian Federation in relation to the CWC. Russia destroyed its chemical arsenals under the strict control of the international community, which the OPCW has certified. The United States as one of the CWC signatory states is not empowered to certify the completeness and correctness of statements made by other states.
The allegations of “Moscow’s assistance to Damascus” in the context of the alleged chemical attack in Douma on April 7, 2018 is blatant slander and an attempt to shift the responsibility of the Western countries for the tragedy in Douma and for subsequent incidents. The Douma report prepared by the OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM) has provoked a scandal. The OPCW management, supported by the United States, has refused to admit that the chemical attack was falsified, or to reply to the legitimate questions of the CWC member states in this connection, or provide documents on the basis of which the conclusion was made that the Syrian Air Force was involved in the incident. All this was done to justify the missile attack launched against Syria by the United States, Britain and France on April 14, 2018 in violation of the UN Charter and universal norms of international law.
The Russian Federation is not involved in any actions contrary to the provisions of the CWC. At the same time, there are serious questions about the systemic problems in the United States related to the illegal use of psychotropic substances, for example, the fentanyl class of drugs.
Military-political realities of conventional arms control and confidence- and security-building measures
As for conventional arms control and confidence- and security-building measures, the 2020 report is practically the same as last year’s report, on which the Foreign Ministry of Russia provided a comprehensive comment.
The Foreign Ministry published a document titled Treaty on Open Skies: Questions and Answers, in which in-depth answers were provided to the US allegations of violations of the OST, as well as substantiated complaints about the United States’ compliance with the treaty, which Washington has obstinately refused to mention.
However, we believe that some elements of the report deserve additional comment.
For example, the report does not include the recent allegations according to which Russia used its observation flights conducted under the Treaty to collect information for the guidance of precision weapons. The authors of the report most likely omitted these allegations because they are aware of their absurdity.
We point out the United States’ unsubstantiated attempts to question Russia’s compliance with the Vienna Document (VD), in particular Chapter III, Risk Reduction, regarding “a hazardous incident” near Nenoksa, Russia, in August 2019. The facility where this happened is not part of the armed forces in the context of the VD and therefore does not fall within VD provisions, as the authors of the report have as good as admitted.
Something is wrong with the authors’ logic, as can be seen from numerous semantic discrepancies. For example, they write about China’s non-compliance with the Missile Technology Control Regime and then admit that China is not a party to the regime.
Regarding the VD, we would like to say that the United States has not raised the question of Russia’s alleged noncompliance at the OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation or any other related organisations in Vienna, which is proof of the unsubstantiated nature of the Americans’ complaints.
The report does not mention Ukraine’s noncompliance or problems with some NATO countries’ compliance, in particular, refusal to ratify the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE Treaty), or the fact that some NATO countries violate the quantity limitations of the CFE Treaty by admitting new members, or OST violations by Georgia, which has refused to allow Russian observation flights over its territory contrary to its commitments under the treaty.
The United States has a selective approach to its commitments in the sphere of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation and provides a one-sided and biased interpretation whenever faced with the undeniable facts of its noncompliance or violation. Its policy in this regard is clear: if it cannot interpret facts as it wants, it attempts to distract attention from them, as in the case of Iran’s nuclear deal and UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which Washington has grossly violated and yet these violations are not even mentioned in the report.
We filled this gap by providing a comment on the Executive Summary of the report, but we have a few other things to say on this matter now.
The concerns used by Washington to cover up its own violations and illegal activities are not based on facts but on allegations and suppositions, which amount to prejudice and mistrust of the IAEA verification system because it has failed to implement Washington’s political order to deprive Iran of its legitimate rights under Article IV of the NPT to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The report admits that in the reporting period (2019) Iran was not engaged in key activities associated with the design and development of a nuclear weapon. For some reason, the United States has claimed the credit for this, larding the text with pledges to prevent Iran’s diversion of nuclear energy to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. This is a clear distortion of facts: the US and its policy of “maximum pressure on the Iranian regime” have no connection to this issue whatsoever. Tehran is honouring its commitments under the NPT and is the most verifiable country among the IAEA member states, which is ensured by the IAEA Safeguards Agreements and the extra nuclear-related commitments, which are known as transparency measures, which Iran has voluntarily accepted within the JCPOA and which it continues to comply with.
There is no doubt that if any of the non-nuclear countries, as defined in the NPT, launched the production of nuclear weapons, or otherwise acquired them, this would amount to a violation of its commitments under the NPT. Regrettably, the United States recalls this provision only in connection with Iran and completely forgets it when deploying nuclear weapons on the territory of non-nuclear states in Europe, holding joint exercises on the use of such weapons with them, and hindering IAEA verification activities by not allowing the Agency to send inspections to these territories, although the safeguards agreements these countries have signed do not include any reservations that would allow such exemptions Article 1 of the CWC, General Obligations, reads that each state party to the Convention undertakes never under any circumstances to use chemical weapons.  UN Security Council Resolution 2231 urges the full implementation of the JCPOA within the timeframe specified in Annex V of the JCPOA and sets out measures the implementation of which should allow lifting the UNSC sanctions imposed on Iran.  Article IV of the NPT stipulates “the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.”