NATO backs US accusations against Moscow on arms treaty
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO allies on Friday threw their weight behind U.S. complaints that Russia is violating the New START nuclear arms control treaty and called on Moscow to come back into compliance.
"NATO Allies agree the New START Treaty contributes to international stability by constraining Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear forces," the North Atlantic Council, NATO's top political body, said in a statement.
"Therefore, we note with concern that Russia has failed to comply with legally-binding obligations under the New START Treaty."
The NATO statement came three days after the U.S. State Department also accused Russia of violating the treaty.
NATO said Russia had failed to facilitate U.S. inspections on its territory since August last year.
The NATO statement said this "undermines the United States’ ability to adequately verify Russian compliance with the Treaty’s central limits."
Following the State Department's accusations, Russia insisted on Wednesday it wanted to preserve the treaty.
"We consider the continuation of this treaty very important," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Moscow in August suspended cooperation with inspections under the treaty, blaming travel restrictions imposed by Washington and its allies after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But Russia also said it was still committed to complying with the provisions of the treaty.
New START came into force in 2011 and was extended in 2021 for five more years. It caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia can deploy, and the deployment of land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them.
The NATO statement said: "We call on Russia to fulfill its obligations under the Treaty by facilitating New START inspections on Russian territory, and by returning to participation in the Treaty’s implementation body, the BCC (Bilateral Consultative Commission)."
(Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout, Marine Strauss and Andrew Gray; Editing by Benoit Van Overstraeten, William Maclean)