The State Department isn’t being honest with Americans about Russia’s violations of arms control treaties and other politically binding commitments.
Take the State Department’s annual compliance report, which was published earlier this month. The report outlines U.S. and international compliance with arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament agreements, both legally binding and political.
The State Department’s report shows that Russia continues to violate its arms control obligations, but only offers a limited discussion of Moscow’s violations. The report also fails to account for other known violations of Russia’s arms control treaties and politically binding commitments.
For instance, Russia continues to be in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty). The State Department has determined that Russia has possessed, produced or flight-tested a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) in the range prohibited by the treaty. The report does not provide further details regarding the nature of the violation or the type of ground-launched cruise missile involved.
Further, the discussion regarding the implications of these violations for U.S. security and other interests is inadequate. The report only notes that the Obama administration believes “it is in the mutual security interests” that Russia remains a party to the treaty. The Russian calculus is clearly different, which the State Department fails to account for.
The State Department has proven itself disingenuous regarding public reporting on this issue. The report says that its previous classified versions note concerns regarding Russia’s compliance with the INF Treaty.
But the public versions of the report between 2011 and 2013 note no such concerns and give a false impression that Russia is fully complying with its INF Treaty obligations. Each of the administration’s previous compliance reports note that the U.S. has not raised any issues regarding potential violations.
While the INF Treaty violation is the most serious, Moscow continues to violate a plethora of other arms control agreements—and these violations also receive short shrift in the report. For instance, consider these violations:
- Moscow continues to be engaged in dual-use biological activities and has failed to appropriately document whether its extensive biological weapons program was dismantled since 1992. This long period of time indicates U.S. impotence when it comes to bringing defiant actors into compliance with arms control obligations.
- Russia’s selective implementation of the 2011 Vienna Document on Confidence and Security-Building Measures resulted in “loss of transparency about Russian military activities.” The State Department so far does not know whether Russia is in compliance with the Vienna Document.
- Russia also continues to fail to meet its obligations under the 1992 Treaty on Open Skies by “preventing State Parties [including the United States] from effective observation of the entire territory of Kaliningrad in accordance with treaty rights.” Among other violations, Russia also imposed illegal air space restrictions near Chechnya, and along the Russia-Georgia border, and has failed to provide priority flight clearance “for certain Open Skies flights” above the territory of Russia. Russia’s obstructionism resulted in shortened or cancelled missions, which translates into wasted resources.
The State Department included a summary page regarding the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which has not entered into force and which the Senate has rejected in 1999. It notes that other parties to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty have not publicly defined the scope of nuclear testing moratorium, which makes compliance determinations difficult.
Yet this is inaccurate according to the Obama administration’s own analysis, which states “a thorough review of the history of the treaty negotiation process, as well as statements by world leaders and the negotiators of the agreement, shows that all states understand and accept the CTBT as a ‘zero-yield’ treaty.”
While the treaty itself does not precisely define what constitutes a nuclear weapons test, the Clinton administration took extraordinary steps to assure the Senate that their counterparts in Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom share the U.S. definition of a nuclear test which precludes any experiments that produce a nuclear yield. In the past, however, both Russia and China have been found conducting nuclear yield-producing experiments prohibited under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Lastly, Russia is undermining the Nonproliferation Treaty regime by threatening non-nuclear weapon states in Europe with nuclear attacks and is violating its political commitments to eliminate certain classes of tactical nuclear weapons under the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives.
The State Department is mum on both of these matters, and as such is doing the nation a disservice by failing to provide accurate information for an informed public debate on these important issues.