Russia has increased its deployed nuclear warheads over the past six months — even as the United States has cuts its own — suggesting Moscow could abandon an arms treaty to focus on a nuclear buildup, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
"It is now highly unlikely that Russia intends to comply with [the] New START [treaty]," Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon nuclear weapons specialist now with the National Institute for Policy, tells the Free Beacon.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration continues a program of unilateral nuclear disarmament despite promises by President Barack Obama to modernize and maintain U.S. nuclear forces as long as strategic dangers are present, the Free Beacon reports.
But Russia's nuclear buildup is raising new fears that Moscow plans to break out of New START treaty limits rather than comply with the accord, the outlet reports. Russian forces have deployed 249 warheads above the warhead limit set by the treaty to be reached by February 2018, according to the Free Beacon.
Since the treaty went into force in 2011, Moscow increased its total warhead stockpile from 1,537 warheads to 1,796 warheads, an increase of 259 warheads.
By contrast, the Obama administration has cut U.S. nuclear forces by 433 warheads during the same period.
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, nominee to be the next commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, warned the Senate last month that Russia is modernizing its strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.
"Collectively, Russian development of advancing weapons capabilities and its evolving warfighting doctrine is concerning," he said at the time, the Free Beacon reports.
Under New START, the United States and Russia agreed to reduce deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 warheads. Deployed land-based and submarine-launched missiles and bombers will be cut to 700. Missile launchers and non-deployed heavy bombers will be reduced to 800, the Free Beacon reports.
Blake Narendra, spokesman for the State Department's arms control bureau, insists the Russian warhead increase is part of a "business-like" implementation of the treaty provisions.
"The United States and Russia continue to implement the New START treaty in a business-like manner," Narendra told the Free Beacon.
"The treaty does not prescribe interim limits. We fully expect Russia to meet the treaty's central limits by February 2018."
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