“For 50 years, the Arms Control Association has educated citizens around the world to help create broad support for U.S.-led arms control and nonproliferation achievements.”

– President Joe Biden
June 2, 2022
Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández

Deterrence and risk reduction are two sides of the same coin

Centrum Balticum publishes a discussion forum, Baltic Rim Economies (BRE), which deals with the development of the Baltic Sea region. In the BRE review, high level public and corporate decision makers, representatives of Academia, as well as several other experts contribute to the discussion. The following contribution from Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández appeared in the February 2023 issue . Russia’s unjustified war on Ukraine has unleashed much suffering, displaced millions, and wrecked any prospects of cooperative security for the foreseeable future. Moscow’s revisionist actions have...

Russia Formally Withdraws From CFE Treaty

June 2023
By Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández

Russia dealt another symbolic blow to European security by formally withdrawing from the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on May 10 terminating his country’s participation in the treaty, and the state Duma followed up five days later by approving a law denouncing the landmark agreement.

More than 72,000 pieces of military equipment, such as this German Marder tank, were destroyed under the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty from which Russia formally has withdrawn. (Photo by Jens Schlueter/Getty Images)The move marks the end of an era for the conventional arms control architecture in Europe that was painstakingly built over decades. Russia attempted to explain its decision by accusing the United States and NATO of pursuing a military confrontation with Russia with disastrous consequences.

The Western allies rejected this assertion. “Russia’s actions contrast with allies’ efforts to sustain the CFE Treaty, and Russian arguments that attempt to justify withdrawal with reference to circumstances in Ukraine or Finnish and Swedish accession to NATO are not credible,” a senior U.S. State Department official told Arms Control Today.

“Russia’s actions change nothing on the ground. Since 2007, Russia has ‘suspended’ its implementation of the CFE Treaty without a valid legal basis and it was failing to fully live up to its obligations under the treaty even before that ‘suspension,’” the official said.

Signed in 1990 during the era of perestroika as the Cold War was ending, the treaty, together with the Vienna Document and the Open Skies Treaty, constitute a web of interlocking and mutually reinforcing arms control obligations and commitments.

The CFE Treaty eliminated the Soviet Union's overwhelming quantitative advantage in conventional weapons in Europe by setting equal limits on the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the Warsaw Pact could deploy between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains.

The treaty was designed to prevent either alliance from amassing forces for a blitzkrieg-type offensive in case deterrence failed and to establish a military balance in Europe at a lower level of armaments. Through unprecedented verification measures, the treaty resulted in the elimination of more than 72,000 pieces of military equipment.

Russia’s wars in Chechnya complicated NATO-Russia treaty cooperation because since 1994 Russia has deployed more heavy military equipment in the Caucasus than permitted by the landmark pact and the 1996 CFE Flank Document. (See ACT, May 1997). “The old treaty...has long ceased to correspond to reality,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Parlamentskaya Gazeta on May 15.

During the 1999 CFE Treaty summit in Istanbul, treaty members signed an agreement known as the Adapted Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty to update the CFE treaty’s structure to reflect the breakup of the Warsaw Pact and the expansion of NATO because the original treaty had no provision for additional countries to accede to it.

At the summit, Russia pledged to withdraw its forces from Moldova and Georgia and to show restraint in its deployment near the Baltics. (See ACT, November 1999.) But only Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine ratified the agreement, and Ukraine has yet to deposit its ratification instrument.

The United States and its allies did not ratify the adapted treaty, citing the deployment of Russian forces in Moldova and Georgia. Russia insisted that ratification should not be conditioned on its pledges to withdraw its military from Moldova and Georgia and voiced frustrations that Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia were not subject to CFE Treaty limits because they were not parties to the original agreement. Russia also wanted constraints eliminated on how many forces it could deploy in its southern and northern flanks. (See ACT, January/February 2008).

Given that the adapted treaty’s entry into force was contingent on ratification by all CFE Treaty parties, the original treaty remained in effect. Because of the dispute, Russia suspended its implementation of the treaty in 2007, but left open the option of returning to compliance and continued to participate in the CFE Treaty Joint Consultative Group until 2015. (See ACT, April 2015; December 2007.)

But after the Duma acted on May 16, Ryabkov told Tass that “[t]hose who still hoped to get Russia back into the treaty need to abandon their illusions, as the CFE Treaty runs counter to our security interests amid the current developments. And the West will have to recognize this obvious fact.”

In a tweet on May 10, Alexander Graef of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy in Hamburg noted how Russia’s steadfast ally, Belarus, was still party to the treaty. “Russia has not participated in the CFE Treaty for 15+ years but for a supposedly dead treaty, the 29 other members still spend a lot of energy on its implementation, including Belarus. The [treaty’s] remaining value is not in the numbers but in the information exchange and on-site inspections.”

In 2011, Washington said that it “would cease carrying out certain obligations” under the treaty with regard to Russia, but continued to implement its obligations toward other parties. (See ACT, December 2011.)

Poland announced on March 21 that it would cease to implement certain articles of the agreement with regard to Belarus because the “aggression against Ukraine in 2022 was committed not only by Russia but also by Belarus.” Asked by Arms Control Today if Washington might take similar action, the senior State Department official said that, “We will be consulting on any next steps in response to Russia’s action.”

In December 2021, two months before Russia’s illegal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the United States and its allies exchanged arms control proposals with Russia. (See ACT, March 2022.) Russia demanded that NATO no longer deploy forces on the territories of members who joined the alliance after 1997 and that NATO refrain from further enlargement. In reply, the United States and its allies urged Russia to return to observing the CFE Treaty.

The Russian move marks the end of an era for the conventional arms control architecture in Europe that was painstakingly built over decades.

TPNW Working Groups Advance Treaty Implementation

June 2023
By Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández

A newly established scientific advisory group for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) met for the first time in March and elected Zia Mian and Patricia Lewis as co-chairs. Mian is a physicist and director of Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security. Lewis leads the International Security Program at Chatham House.

The group of 15 nuclear weapons experts was nominated by TPNW states-parties and appointed by Juan Ramon de la Fuente Ramirez of Mexico, the president-designate of the second meeting of states-parties, which is scheduled for Nov. 27-Dec. 1. The group was established during the first meeting of state-parties in 2022 with the purpose of reporting on the latest cutting-edge research on nuclear weapons, including the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and nuclear disarmament verification. (See ACT, July/August 2022.)

Meanwhile, experts and states-parties from the TPNW informal working group on the elimination of nuclear weapons, led by Mexico and New Zealand, met in February and March to discuss pathways toward verifying the elimination of such weapons.

According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the verification issue and other questions also will be studied by the scientific advisory group. The second meeting of TPNW states-parties, in New York this fall, will assess the progress made in accordance with the nuclear ban treaty’s implementation. Some 68 countries have ratified the TPNW.

A newly established scientific advisory group for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) met for the first time in March and elected Zia Mian and Patricia Lewis as co-chairs.

New U.S. ICBMs May Be Delayed Two Years

May 2023
By Shannon Bugos and Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández

The new U.S. Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program may face a delay of two years due to supply chain issues and an absence of skilled engineers, although the Pentagon aims to shorten the lag time by adjusting the program’s acquisition plan.

The new U.S. Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile program, shown in a U.S. Air Force illustration, may be delayed two years because of supply chain issues. (U.S. Air Force illustration)The Sentinel program “may miss its goal of initial deployment in May 2029 by as much as two years, according to information presented at a high-level Pentagon review last month,” Bloomberg first reported on March 23.

The Air Force said in a statement to Bloomberg that it has “identified and is ready to execute acquisition strategy changes to reduce risk and optimize schedule, wherever possible.” Deborah Rosenblum, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, told the House Armed Services Committee on March 28 that the $96 billion program remains a top priority for the Pentagon.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall sparked initial speculation in November about potential delays when he told a defense event in Washington, “I am concerned about the schedule, specifically for Sentinel.”

The Pentagon requested $3.7 billion for continued research and development and $539 million for initial procurement of the Sentinel system for fiscal year 2024. The Air Force aims to purchase a total of about 650 Sentinel ICBMs and deploy 400 of them to replace Minuteman III ICBMs. In April, the Defense Department began to solicit proposals for a new reentry vehicle to carry the nuclear warhead for the Sentinel missiles.

In its 2024 budget proposal, the Biden administration requested $56.5 billion for nuclear weapons-related activities at the Defense Department, which oversees nuclear weapons delivery vehicles, and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which oversees nuclear warheads. Overall, the Pentagon is seeking a total budget of $842 billion, a 3 percent increase from the 2023 appropriation, and the NNSA is seeking $18.8 billion, a 10 percent increase from the 2023 appropriation. (See ACT, April 2022.)

The Pentagon’s request was informed by the fact that the United States is facing for the first time “two major nuclear powers, whose vital national security interests are in competition” with the United States, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on March 29. “Both China and Russia have the means to threaten U.S. national security…but war with either is neither inevitable nor imminent.”

Two nuclear weapons capabilities endorsed by the Trump administration but denounced by the Biden administration were cut in the new budget request. This reflects the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review, which stated that the Biden administration would not proceed with plans for the development of a nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) or the life extension program for the megaton class B83-1 gravity bomb. (See ACT, January/February 2023; December 2022.)

Funding for the SLCM and its associated nuclear warhead, the W80-4, was eliminated in the request, although Congress could reverse this later. For fiscal year 2023, Congress appropriated $25 million for the SLCM and $20 million for the warhead despite no such request from the administration.

In a marked change from his predecessor, Gen. Anthony Cotton, head of U.S. Strategic Command, did not explicitly express support for a nuclear-armed SLCM in a February letter to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The SLCM offers “additional options and supports an integrated deterrence approach,” he wrote, but “I support funding to assess the full range of possible options to address this challenge in a rapidly changing security environment with the backdrop of multiple nuclear adversaries.”

As for the B83-1 gravity bomb, the NNSA requested $31 million, but those funds would go to sustainment efforts to ensure the bomb’s safety and reliability rather than a life extension program.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s 2024 budget includes a $5.3 billion request for the B-21 Raider bomber, shown here at the unveiling ceremony in December. The high-tech stealth bomber can carry nuclear and conventional weapons and is designed to be able to fly without a crew on board. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)Meanwhile, the Defense Department’s other nuclear modernization programs continue apace. The Air Force requested $5.3 billion for R&D and construction of the B-21 Raider dual-capable strategic bomber, an increase from the fiscal year 2023 authorization of $4.9 billion. The Pentagon unveiled the bomber in December, and it will have its first flight test later this year. The Air Force plans to purchase at least 100 bombers.

The Air Force also requested $978 million for the new nuclear-capable Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) weapons system, which includes $67 million for a second year of procurement. The service aims to buy about 1,000 LRSO missiles, with initial deployment in 2030.

The Navy asked for $6.1 billion for R&D and procurement of what ultimately will be a fleet of 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, a decrease of $1 billion from the 2023 appropriation.

The request would procure “the second Columbia-class submarine, our nation’s most survivable leg of the strategic triad, and [keep] us on track for the delivery of the first vessel in” 2028, Erik Raven, undersecretary of the Navy, said in a March 13 congressional briefing.

Although not a host for nuclear delivery systems, the Army has been developing a conventional, ground-launched midrange missile, a capability previously prohibited under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. This capability, known as the Typhon system, features modified Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) and Tomahawk cruise missiles. The Army received the first of four planned Typhon systems on Dec. 2.

For 2024, the Typhon program transitioned fully into the procurement phase, with the Army requesting $170 million for the procurement of 58 new Block V Tomahawk missiles.

Meanwhile, the NNSA budget seeks continued funding for the B61-12 gravity bomb, the W87-1 warhead, and the W-80 air-launched cruise missile programs at $450 million, $1.1 billion, and $1 billion, respectively.

The Federation of American Scientists reported on Jan. 9 that the deployment of B61-12 bombs to the six bases in Europe, which house an estimated 100 U.S. nuclear bombs under the NATO nuclear-sharing arrangement, appears imminent, if it has not begun already.

The NNSA also requested $390 million for an entirely new controversial warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the W93. The United Kingdom is pursuing a parallel nuclear warhead replacement program based on the W93 design. The Pentagon, meanwhile, requested $126 million for the warhead’s associated Mk7 aeroshell.

As for arms control and nonproliferation efforts, the NNSA requested $212 million, a 7.8 percent decrease from 2023 funding.

The NNSA is also in the midst of producing plutonium pits for nuclear weapons, an effort that has experienced significant delays in achieving the congressionally mandated goal of producing 80 pits per year by 2030. But Jill Hruby, NNSA administrator, reaffirmed to Congress on March 28 that the NNSA “remains firmly committed to achieving 80 [pits per year] as close to 2030 as possible.”

For 2024, the NNSA requested $921 million for pit production at Savannah River Site in South Carolina and $1.8 billion for the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Meanwhile, the Missile Defense Agency set out its plan to continue efforts “to counter growing and more complex threats” and to improve the reliability and lethality of the Navy’s Aegis weapons system, including the SM variants.

On April 3, the agency announced the successful interception of a medium-range ballistic missile by two SM-6 interceptors fired simultaneously from an Aegis-equipped ship. The test marked the first interception of this class of missile in the terminal phase of flight by the SM-6 and the third successful test of an Aegis vessel using the SM-6.

For 2024 the agency requested a total of $1.8 billion for Aegis missile defense systems, including R&D on Aegis software and hardware, the development of land-based SM-3 missiles, and the procurement of 27 Aegis SM-3 Block IB missiles and 12 Aegis SM-3 Block IIA missiles for deployment at sea on Aegis ships and on land at the Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland.

Vice Adm. Jon A. Hill, the agency director, said on March 14 that his organization is “very excited about where we are today” with the Poland site. “We completed construction, which was the major tip over into combat system installation and testing. That testing is going on now” and is scheduled to finish by this fall.

The agency also requested $2.1 billion for Next Generation Interceptor missiles, which are intended to replace the current Ground Based Interceptor missiles that are part of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system. The agency plans to begin supplementing the existing 44 ground-based missiles with 20 next-generation missiles no later than 2028, bringing the fleet total to 64.

The Biden administration’s request also includes continued funding of $351 million for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, a slight decrease from the 2023 appropriation of $352 million. This program is aimed at reducing threats from weapons of mass destruction and related challenges, including the spread of dangerous pathogens such as the coronavirus.

The new U.S. Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program may face a delay of two years due to supply chain issues and an absence of skilled engineers. 

Russian ICBM Test Raises Questions for Kazakhstan

May 2023
By Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández

Russia’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from its territory to a test site in Kazakhstan has raised questions about Kazakhstan’s compliance with a 2017 treaty banning nuclear weapons.

After the Russians tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that landed at a test site in Kazakhstan on April 11, the U.S. Air Force released pictures that it says shows service members aboard an E-6B Mercury 'doomsday plane' initiating the test launch of an unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBM on April 19. (U.S. Air Force photo)Kazakhstan, a leader on disarmament and nonproliferation issues, ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in 2019. But the Russian Defense Ministry announced the launch on April 11 of a missile whose training warhead reached the designated target at the Sary-Shagan test site, which is leased by Russia from Kazakhstan.

“This [missile] launch made it possible to confirm the correctness of the circuit design and technical solutions used in the development of new strategic missile systems,” the ministry reported in a statement.

It was the first time since 2019 that Russia has used the site to test ICBMs.

The TPNW, which entered into force in January 2021, is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons with the ultimate goal of their total elimination.

It bars states-parties from assisting anyone in anyway in a prohibited activity. Specifically, the treaty says states-parties promise to “never under any circumstances...assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a state-party under this treaty.” In addition, they forswear to “allow any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.”

The Nuclear Weapon Ban Monitor, a watchdog group, noted on April 12 that Kazakhstan’s actions were not consistent with the TPNW. “This is no doubt a difficult situation for Kazakhstan, but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate the significance of the TPNW. As a state committed to the goals of the TPNW and the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, Kazakhstan should communicate its priorities to Russia and request that it refrains from all testing of nuclear-capable missiles at Sary-Shagan,” according to a group statement.

Meanwhile, Pavel Podvig, an expert on Russian strategic nuclear forces, said in an April 12 tweet that the missile launch “was an important test for the TPNW and…not an easy one.”

“Sary-Shagan is largely a missile defense site [that] was used by the Soviet Union to test various defense-related systems—radars and interceptors in particular [and]…one can argue that missile defense may be TPNW-compliant.”

But he added that the “situation with the Kapustin Yar [Russian test site] to Sary-Shagan launches is a bit different. These are tests of ICBMs.… ICBMs are very much dedicated nuclear weapon delivery systems.”

Kazakhstan insisted that it remained in full compliance with the TPNW.

“Taking into account that no nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices (or their indivisible parts) are being in any way placed, tested, or utilized on the territory of Kazakhstan (including at certain military facilities rented to third parties in accordance with existing international agreements), Kazakhstan remains in full compliance with its obligations under the TPNW,” the Kazakh embassy in Brussels wrote on April 12 when asked by EURACTIV whether the missile test constituted a breach of the TPNW.

The Kazakh-Russian leasing agreement for the test site states that “nuclear and chemical weapons” are prohibited on the test site.

The agreement was last amended in 2015 and is automatically renewed every 10 years unless one party notifies the other party in writing at least six months prior to the expiration of the agreement.

Last December, the Russian Strategic Forces announced that it planned to carry out eight launches of ICBMs in 2023, from the Plesetsk cosmodrome and from the 4th State Central Interspecific Test Site Kapustin Yar.

According to the leasing agreement, Kazakhstan and Russia agree on annual plans for research, tactical exercises with live-fire missile launches, the maintenance and repair of weapons and military equipment, and schedules for testing.

Russia’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from its territory to a test site in Kazakhstan has raised questions about Kazakhstan’s compliance with a 2017 treaty banning nuclear weapons.  

Russia Reneges on Military Data Sharing Commitment

April 2023
By Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández

Russia confirmed it is no longer fulfilling its commitment to share information about its armed forces with 56 other states, as required by a multinational confidence- and security-building mechanism.

During the February meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly in Vienna, the Russians faced walkouts and ridicule from other delegates, some of whom showed support for Ukraine by holding up Ukrainian flags. (Photo by OSCE)Russia’s failure to comply with this and other international obligations, including by waging war on Ukraine, has prompted some participating states to question Russia’s role in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the leading forum for addressing security and stability concerns in the region. Ukraine has called for Russia’s total exclusion from the organization. (See ACT, January/February 2023.)

“Russia does not renounce its obligations under the Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures in Europe, but its actions will depend on how other countries fulfill the requirements of this agreement,” the Russian Foreign Ministry told Kommersant on March 10, a week after Arms Control Today reported exclusively that Moscow did not share its national data last year and was continuing to withhold it this year.

Overseen by the OSCE, the Vienna Document has allowed the 57 participating states to observe and notify each other about their military exercises and other relevant events to prevent misinterpretation of these activities. It is one of the few remaining mechanisms for political and military cooperation in Europe.

The Russian confirmation comes at a fraught time when the security situation in the OSCE region is deteriorating as tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan increase in Nagorno-Karabakh, protesters and police clash in Georgia, and Russia continues its war on Ukraine. Russia’s use of its veto in the OSCE has hampered the organization’s work in the past year. (See ACT, December/January 2023.)

Coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine in February, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly brought lawmakers from all over Europe to Vienna for its annual winter conference. Ukraine and Lithuania said they would boycott official conference meetings because of the presence of Russian delegates, who were granted visas by Austria after much criticism despite their country being under sanctions by the European Union and the United States.

At the meeting, the Russians faced walkouts and ridicule from other delegates. The Russians accused the West of preventing dialogue by supplying Ukraine with weapons. Many delegations wore yellow and blue, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

“Russian warship, go **** yourself,” Latvian lawmaker Richard Kols said in Russian at the meeting, echoing a rallying cry of the Ukrainian military forces and civilians protesting the Russian invasion.

According to the Associated Press, Russian delegates argued that Russia should not be excluded from the organization, yet questioned why their country should continue paying its OSCE contribution. “Addressing the problems of European security without the biggest country in Europe is not possible,” said Deputy Duma Chairman Pyotr Tolstoy, head of the Russian delegation.

Russia’s decision to stop sharing information about its armed forces with the OSCE does not help its case. The decision was first communicated on Jan. 16, 2022, in a letter from Konstantin Gavrilov, head of the Russian arms control delegation in Vienna, to the chair of the OSCE Forum for Security and Cooperation. The decision was reiterated in early 2023. Gavrilov said Russia would not provide national information about its armed forces for 2023 as stipulated in Chapter I of the Vienna Document, essentially suspending its participation in the annual exchange that is supposed to be conducted each year by Dec. 15.

Russia still has not provided the required data even though the new reporting year has begun, an official from an OSCE participating state told Arms Control Today on condition of anonymity.

In the letter, Gavrilov wrote that the decision “was taken in response to the Czech Republic’s step to suspend the implementation of its commitments under [the Vienna Document] towards Russia and due to Ukraine’s interpretative statement about its refusal to participate in the 2023 [data exchange], as well as to send certain routine notifications provided by the Vienna Document.”

“We proceed from the assumption that if the Russian Federation exchanges its national [data] report, it will for sure end up in the hands of the above-mentioned participating states,” he added.

The letter also accused 29 of the participating states, including Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, of not providing certain notifications on time and alleged that the Netherlands excluded Russia from the list of notification recipients. In addition, Russia accused Bulgaria, France, and Poland of not inviting Russian representatives to their military bases, as required under the Vienna Document.

As of February, 50 participating states had provided the required military forces data for 2023, the official from the OSCE participating state said, while Armenia, Mongolia, Poland, and Ukraine provided information “on delay,” meaning late. The remaining two countries, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, have not submitted information for years.

Asked about Russia’s accusations, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in an email on Feb. 28 that “the United States continues to fully adhere to all of its commitments under the Vienna Document…including the provision of required notifications and other information to all [OSCE] participating states, among them Russia.” He did not address the issue of Russian compliance.

According to Western officials, Russian adherence to the document has long been eroding. As Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in August, “[T]he Vienna Document 2011 remains formally in force, but there are no prospects for its practical implementation.”

“In the absence of trust between the parties, the verification mechanism actually becomes a source of intelligence information, which does not meet the spirit of the agreement," he said at the Moscow Conference on International Security.

When Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, Ukraine requested under Chapter III of the document that the OSCE send unarmed military and civilian personnel to its territory, starting in Odesa, to dispel concerns about military activity. OSCE military assessment personnel were denied entry to Crimea.

In 2021, Ukraine called for a meeting under Chapter III and requested that Russia clarify its military activities as Russian forces were building up near the Ukrainian border. Russia refused to respond to the inquiry and insisted that it had no obligation to do so, but accepted a Swiss inspection in the territories of Voronezh and Belgorod.

In 2022, before launching its full-scale war on Ukraine, Russia announced that it no longer would host visits to verify the data part of the information exchange or inspections of specified areas to observe military activities. It cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason.

According to RBC, a Russian website, Russia recently accused Western countries of changing plans for conducting military exercises and increasing the scale and intensity of these exercises since 2022.

Gavrilov said on March 6 that Western countries have not agreed on the dates for the annual meeting to assess the implementation of the Vienna Document.

“For example, on February 16, the largest multinational Orion-23 exercises in recent decades started in France. We learned about their beginning from the press, and not through the official channels of the Vienna Document. This is even though NATO allies are practicing large-scale military operations in all environments during these maneuvers,” he said.

The West has long been concerned about Russian adherence to the Vienna Document requirements. But Moscow’s decision to further cloak its military activities and conventional forces makes the situation worse by signaling a return to deeper strategic ambiguity as its forces and equipment are spent in Ukraine. Russia has increased its defense budget and mobilized its defense industry to support the war.

The commitment to share data with 56 other states is required by a multinational confidence- and security-building mechanism.   

Russian Jet Strikes U.S. Drone Over Black Sea

April 2023

The United States accused Russia of unprofessional and unsafe behavior after a Russian Su-27 fighter jet struck the propeller of an unarmed U.S. reconnaissance drone, causing U.S. forces to bring down the system in international waters in the Black Sea.

A photo captured from a video shows a U.S. drone being harassed by a Russian Su-27 fighter jet over the Black Sea on March 14. (Photo by U.S. European Command/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)The March 14 incident marked the first time that the two military forces came into direct physical contact since Russia launched its full-scale war on Ukraine in February 2022.

A day later, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, announced that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu regarding the “unprofessional, dangerous, and reckless behavior” of the Russian air force. Austin “emphasized that the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows,” Ryder said.

The call was the first between Austin and Shoigu since October. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley also spoke with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the Associated Press reported.

According to an unclassified video released by the U.S. Defense Department, two Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9 Reaper drone. News reports quoted a U.S. Air Force official as saying the Russian jets executed 19 close-in passes before one of the jets collided with the drone’s rear propeller.

Moscow alleged that the U.S. drone had no transponders and violated the airspace zone Moscow had established for its temporary use for the war in Ukraine. The United States warned of unintended escalation.

“[T]he Russian fighters [that] scrambled to identify the intruder did not use on-board weapons and did not come into contact” with the drone, said Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States. “The unacceptable actions of the United States military in the close proximity to our borders are cause for concern.”

Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, claimed on March 15 that the incident was “another confirmation” of direct participation of the United States in the war in Ukraine, according to RIA Novosti.

He suggested that Russia was planning to retrieve the remains of the drone. “I don’t know if we can recover them or not, but we will certainly have to do that, and we will deal with it,” Patrushev said on Russian television.—GABRIELA IVELIZ ROSA HERNÁNDEZ

Russian Jet Strikes U.S. Drone Over Black Sea

Turkey, Hungary Ratify Finland’s NATO Bid

April 2023

The Turkish and Hungarian parliaments ratified Finland’s application for NATO membership, clearing the last obstacle to the Nordic country’s bid and expanding the alliance border with Russia.

Turkey, the last holdout, approved Finland’s membership by a unanimous vote of 276 on March 30, three days after the Hungarian Parliament ratified the application by a 182–6 vote. Turkey and Hungary frustrated NATO for months by repeatedly postponing action.

Finland’s ascension to NATO would add one of Western Europe’s most potent wartime militaries to the alliance as well as intelligence and border-surveillance abilities, The New York Times reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said that his government would ratify Finland’s application before the Turkish election on May 14, making way for Finland to join the alliance without Sweden.

“With Finland’s membership, NATO will become stronger,” Erdoğan told a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Ankara on March 17.

Niinistö, addressing Sweden’s NATO bid, said, “I have a feeling that Finnish membership is not complete without Sweden…. I would like to see [at the NATO summit in July] in Vilnius that we will need the alliance of 32 members.”

Last June, U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed Turkey’s decision to agree to a trilateral memorandum with Finland and Sweden, under NATO auspices, that was supposed to pave the way for the Nordic nations to join the alliance. Finland and Sweden affirmed their support for Turkey against threats to its national security and insisted that they should join NATO together. (See ACT, November 2022.)

But on Oct. 6, Erdoğan suggested that Finland and Sweden should join the alliance separately and renewed his threat about blocking Swedish accession. Previously, Turkey had accused Sweden and, to a lesser degree, Finland of aiding groups that Turkey identifies as terrorists, namely the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Turkish separatist group, and an armed group in Syria that Turkey perceives as an extension of the PKK.

Sweden’s NATO bid remained up in the air as members of Hungary’s governing party insisted they will wait for Stockholm to clear up lingering disagreements before they go to a vote. Meanwhile, Erdoğan said talks with Sweden would continue but support for its application would depend on the Nordic country taking “solid steps.”—GABRIELA IVELIZ ROSA HERNÁNDEZ

Turkey, Hungary Ratify Finland’s NATO Bid

How Russia’s retreat from the Vienna Document information exchange undermines European security

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has inflicted much suffering, amplified international divisions, and made any attempt to build common security extremely difficult. Moscow’s war on Ukraine also hobbled several arms control and security agreements—including, now, the Vienna Document . Hosted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Vienna Document is a confidence- and security-building mechanism that allows participants to observe and notify each other about their military exercises and other relevant activities to prevent misinterpretation of each other’s...


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