While Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared that Russia will suspend its participation in the New START arms reduction treaty, the United States’ assessment of Russia’s nuclear program remains unchanged, two senior administration officials told CNN. .
There remains some uncertainty among US officials about what Russia plans to do now that it has stopped participating in the deal, the officials said.
But officials in President Joe Biden’s administration remain confident that the United States will know if Russia starts developing its nuclear program.
“We are confident in our ability to monitor these very questions,” a senior administration official said when asked if the United States would know if Russia began developing its nuclear program beyond what it has now. “New START is an important tool, but it’s not the only tool we have at our disposal.”
The official did not detail the tools the United States has in its arsenal. Historically, the US has relied on intelligence gathering to monitor Russia’s nuclear program in addition to the information that is collected as part of New START.
The Biden administration’s confidence in monitoring Russia’s nuclear program mirrors earlier comments by State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“We haven’t seen any reason yet to change our nuclear posture, our strategic posture, but this is something we monitor every day,” Price said on “CNN This Morning.”
On the nuclear arms treaty: The treaty limits both the US and Russia to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. It also requires on-site inspections as part of compliance checks. Russia has not complied with the treaty for months, because it has not allowed the inspections that are part of it. Inspections have now not been done since 2020, because they were stopped due to Covid-19 and never resumed.
As Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, Putin is redoubling his commitment to war. US officials are wary of saying such efforts would harm Russia’s ability to build its nuclear program, but some see it as unlikely that they will participate in such efforts as the war continues.
“I wouldn’t like to offer an assessment as to whether that has overburdened them to the point that it would somehow prevent them from taking action to develop their nuclear arsenal, but… they have a lot of problems on their hands,” one official said. “I think they’re going to be careful not to bite off more than they can chew.”