The Trump administration's charge that Russia has restarted "very low-yield nuclear tests" in an intelligence finding revealed on Wednesday has been met with fierce push back from Moscow, with Russian officials slamming the allegation as a "crude provocation".
This comes just as President Vladimir Putin has reportedly submitted a draft resolution to Russian parliament on Moscow’s pullout of the INF Treaty with the US following Washington's initial withdrawal last year. Russia's suspension of the INF will go into law immediately should the Duma approve the bill, and Putin will have the power to renew it as he sees fit.
Russian officials stressed they've continued to be in compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which the US is now accusing Moscow of violating.
The new US intelligence assessment concluded that Russia has likely been secretly conducting "very low-yield nuclear tests to upgrade its nuclear arsenal," marking the first time Washington has accused the Kremlin of failing to strictly observe its commitments under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, according to the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
The reaction to US officials from Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the US accusation “groundless” and a “crude provocation,” according to Reuters.
The ministry further said Russia was in "full compliance" with the CTBT, which Moscow ratified in 2000 - something which the statement noted the US itself has not ratified. According to Reuters:
Negotiated in the 1990s, the CTBT enjoys wide global support but must be ratified by eight more nuclear technology states, among them Israel, Iran, Egypt and the United States to come into force.
The new alleged tests, conducted at the remote archipelago of Novaya Zemlya above the Arctic Circle, come as the agreed upon arms-control framework between the new nations has shown signs of deteriorating, as both sides pursue "ambitious programs" to develop new nuclear weapons.
"The United States believes that Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the ‘zero-yield’ standard," Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency planned to say in a Wednesday speech at the Hudson Institute think tank, according to his prepared remarks.
Officials have declined to reveal the size of the alleged Russian tests, nor would they say if concerns over the tests have been raised directly with Moscow, and there's yet to be any comprehensive evidence made public by the US side.