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Russia calls US nuclear accusation 'smear'

U.S. Says Russia Might Be Setting Off Very Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons On This Arctic Island

Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday called a US allegation that Moscow may be conducting nuclear tests in violation of a moratorium on such tests "groundless" and a "crude provocation".

"U.S. political and military leaders should remember that a return to the era of nuclear testing is fraught with dire consequences for global stability", the Russian statement read.

But the Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C. for one is skeptical of Ashley's claim.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Russian Federation was in full compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which Moscow ratified in 2000.

'They have been in breach for several years and they have tested, produced, fielded an INF weapon.

"This begs the question of what, if anything, has changed since then that would support a different conclusion", adds the ACA. He added that it looks like "a well-planned, orchestrated attack not only at Russian Federation, but also at the arms control regime as a whole, at the architecture of strategic stability". It emphasized that Russian Federation ratified the ban in 2000 and has "strictly adhered to its letter and spirit". In February, President Trump said Washington was starting the process of withdrawing from the treaty in six months time.

This is underlined by uncertainty threatening the landmark new START Treaty that is going to expire in 2021, and the future of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement hanging fire.

"The U.S. has determined that Russia's actions have strained key pillars of arms control architecture", said Ashley. It called for the United States itself to ratify the treaty.

While this news implies that a new nuclear arms race may be in the making, various analysts suggest that the USA government claims were somewhat hyperbolic because the mentioned tests are not likely to be related to Russian efforts to expand its nuclear arsenal. Russia, in turn, has also suspended its participation in the treaty, however, saying that all of its earlier proposals remained on table. But that isn't stopping Ashley from undermining the accord.

Ashley contended that Russia's current testing activities would help the country vastly improve its nuclear weapon capabilities. Low-yield testing may only involve a very small amount of explosive power, though the production of any nuclear yield at all would contravene the treaty. It is also not clear if the USA has raised its concerns with the Kremlin.

David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest.