UNITED NATIONS — A senior Russian official voiced concerns Monday that Washington is increasing the role of nuclear weapons in its military planning as part of a stepped-up campaign by the Trump administration to ensure “U.S. military superiority over the rest of the world,” while he also denied U.S. allegations that Moscow has violated an arms treaty.
Andrei Belousov, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Nonproliferation and Arms Control, told the U.N. General Assembly’s disarmament committee that Russia is “especially concerned” at the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review.
The policy review, released in early February, provides for “the creation of low-yield nuclear weapons that would lower the threshold of the use of nuclear weapons,” Belousov said. He said it “also envisages a return to the concept of a ‘limited nuclear war.’”
Pentagon officials have raised concerns about Russia's compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty for several years.
"In essence, the U.S. military thinking in (the) nuclear field has rolled back a half a century when it was believed that a nuclear war was admissible and could be won," he told the committee's session on nuclear weapons.
Belousov said Russia has repeatedly called for "appropriate conditions that would allow us to take practical measures to free the world from nuclear weapons." But he said Moscow must take into account "the existing strategic realities."
In addition to beefing up its nuclear arsenal, Belousov said, the U.S. is developing a global ballistic missile defense.
He said the Trump administration is also refusing to abandon the potential deployment of weapons in outer space, increasing the "numeric and qualitative" imbalance in conventional weapons, and developing "the Prompt Global Strike concept" that would allow U.S. precision-guided conventional weapons to strike anywhere on Earth within one hour.
Belousov said the Trump administration explains its plans for "large-scale strengthening of its nuclear potential" by referring to the alleged growing role of nuclear weapons in Russia's military doctrine.
Nearly half of troops surveyed worry the U.S. will be drawn into a major conflict in the next year.
"Nevertheless, neither the military doctrine nor the statements of political or military leadership of the Russian Federation contain such assumptions," Belousov said. "Actually, we reduced the role of nuclear weapons to the historic minimum."
He called U.S. accusations that Russia isn't complying with a 1987 nuclear weapons treaty "groundless" and said Moscow's claims of U.S. violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty are "justified."
Still, Belousov said, "we are prepared to work together with our U.S. colleagues on the entire set of problems regarding the INF. We hope that we will be reciprocated."
President Donald Trump announced on Saturday that the U.S. is withdrawing from the INF, which was signed with the former Soviet Union. He said Russia has violated the treaty, which prohibits the U.S. and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying ground-launched nuclear cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles).
Trump warned that the U.S. will begin developing such weapons unless Russia and China agree not to possess or develop them. China wasn't a party to the pact that was signed in 1987 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Belousov said U.S. withdrawal from the INF would be "another short-signed and extremely dangerous step by the United States for international peace."
"The withdrawal from the treaty would prove again that the U.S. political and military authorities prioritize their foreign policy goals by obsessively striving to ensure the U.S. military superiority over the rest of the world," Belousov said. "But it is clear that they are not concerned about such issues as strategic stability, international peace and global security at all."
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Russian counterpart, Security Council chairman Nikolai Patrushev, discussed a range of arms control issues in Moscow on Monday, including the INF and a possible five-year extension of another pivotal arms control agreement between Russia and the U.S. — the New START Treaty, according to a statement from the Russian council.
The New START Treaty, which limits long-range nuclear weapons to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads and 700 deployed launchers, is scheduled to expire in 2021. Russia has questioned U.S. compliance.
Belousov said Russian President Vladimir Putin “has confirmed our principled readiness to study the possibility of the treaty’s extension. However, it cannot be done without addressing the remaining questions regarding the U.S. compliance.”