The U.S. has stopped sharing information about its strategic nuclear stockpile with Russia in response to Moscow’s decision last month to suspend its participation in a treaty that limits the deployment of atomic warheads.
The decision was conveyed to Russia on Monday, the Pentagon’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb told the House Armed Services’ Strategic Forces subcommittee on Tuesday.
The move comes after Russia said it was suspending participation in the post-Cold War nuclear agreement, and throws the future of Washington’s participation in the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty into question at a time of heightened tensions with Moscow. Last weekend, Vladimir Putin said he plans to stage tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus as his troops suffer staggering losses in his 13-month old war in Ukraine.
New START, which was reupped at the beginning of the Biden administration, caps the number of deployed nuclear warheads at 1,550 and places other limits on the number of nuclear-capable bombers and launchers.
But after Russia recently declared it would no longer abide by the treaty, and stopped sharing information with the U.S. on its stockpiles, the Biden administration had continued following the pact, until now.
“We have not received any daily notifications from them since that time,” Plumb said.
While Moscow has suspended all participation in the treaty, the Biden administration has decided to hold back only the notification that was due at the end this month, a large data dump that occurs twice a year. The U.S. continues to share daily positioning information with Russia.
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in an email that Russia’s suspension of the treaty is “legally invalid,” and adds to Moscow’s “existing violations of the New START Treaty. As a result, as a lawful countermeasure intended to encourage Russia to return to compliance with the treaty, the United States will likewise not provide its biannual data update to Russia.”
Moscow does continue to supply information on its nuclear stockpile to the U.S. under other arms control treaties, however.
It’s not clear if the U.S. refusal to share information will be repeated at the next scheduled exchange in six months, since the issue remains under review with the administration, Watson said.
In Monday’s meeting between diplomats from both countries, “Russia responded that they will not be providing that information,” he continued. “And so as a diplomatic countermeasure, the United States will not be providing that information back.
“We are going to continue to examine what other diplomatic countermeasures are appropriate,” he added, “and what we’re trying to do is balance both responding to Russia’s irresponsible behavior but continuing to demonstrate what we believe [what] a responsible nuclear power’s action should be.”
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