Friday, October 23, 2009

Wire: Russia Violating START Treaty, Developing Multiple-Warhead Missile

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2009 -- Newswire services yesterday for the most part ignored a Washington Times report that noted a leading lawmaker has complained Russia for years has been violating the current Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which is set to expire Dec. 5.

Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and No. 2 Republican Senate leader, recently said in a Senate floor speech Oct. 19, that Russia's development of a new multiple-warhead RS-24 missile that was tested as recently as May 2007 violates the current treaty.
"That would be illegal for the Russians to deploy under START. So why are they testing it?" Mr. Kyl asked.

"In this case, it appears the Russians have cheated - if not in the letter of the START agreement, at least in its spirit - by converting one of their existing missiles, the Topol-M, to this new multiple-warhead variant," he said. The new missile is also known as the SS-27 by the Pentagon.

The argument of Mr. Kyl and others concerned with the administration's rush to conclude a new treaty is over how a new agreement can be reached when there is evidence that the Russians failed to abide by the old one.

However, Richard R. Verma, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, stated in a Oct. 5 letter to Mr. Kyl that he could not answer many questions posed by the senator because of ongoing negotiations in Geneva.

Mr. Verma stated that the administration has "committed ourselves fully" to finishing a new treaty by Dec. 5. "If a follow-on treaty cannot be concluded by December, the United States and Russia will need to find a mutually acceptable means to continue essential verification and transparency measures until a new treaty enters into force," he said, noting that a five-year extension of the old treaty is not likely.

Russian Embassy press spokesman Yegeni Khorishko said: "The Russian Federation is acting in full conformity with the provisions of the START treaty."

The senator's charge of treaty violations is backed up by a 2005 annual report to Congress by the State Department's bureau of verification and compliance which states that "a significant number of longstanding compliance issues that have been raised in the START Treaty's Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission remain unresolved."
Kyl is demanding that the administration tell the Senate if the Russian violations continued after 2005, or have been resolved, and also why no subsequent compliance reports were made public.
He also wants to know if the new agreement will be submitted to the Senate, which has the constitutional requirement to approve all treaties.

Either way, the Washington Times noted, Kyl said it appears unlikely the United States and Russia will conclude a new treaty limiting U.S. nuclear warheads by the time the 1991 pact expires.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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