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Russia accuses US of nuclear testing site activity, says it won’t test unless US does

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Russia accused the United States of carrying out preparations at its nuclear test site in Nevada but said that Moscow would not restart its own nuclear testing programme unless Washington did.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov made the charge as Russia’s lower house of parliament urgently studies how to revoke Moscow’s ratification of a landmark treaty banning nuclear tests and as tensions with the West are at their highest level since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

A US State Department spokesperson on Tuesday rejected Ryabkov’s allegation, calling it “a disturbing effort by Moscow to heighten nuclear risks and raise tensions in the context of its illegal war in Ukraine”.

The spokesperson reiterated that the United States has no plans to abandon a 1992 moratorium on nuclear test blasts in line with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which Washington has signed but not ratified.

A US test of a nuclear artillery shell at the Nevada Test Site in 1953. File photo: National Nuclear Security Administration via Reuters

Washington, however, is preparing to conduct next year at the Nevada Test Site two so-called subcritical experiments involving fissile materials in amounts too small to ignite a nuclear explosion.

Such experiments, which periodically have been held at the site, are designed to identify potential problems in warheads.

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Jill Hruby, head of the US National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the US nuclear arsenal, announced in June that the United States is open to having international observers monitor the subcritical experiments.

A nuclear test by the United States or Russia could encourage others such as China to follow suit, starting a new nuclear arms race between the big powers, which stopped nuclear testing in the years after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.

“The indications are that there is or was, at least until recently, (preparatory) work under way at the Nevada Testing Site,” the TASS state news agency cited Ryabkov as saying.

The United States last tested in 1992 and the Soviet Union in 1990. The facility Ryabkov referred to is located in a vast tract of desert where hundreds of nuclear explosions have been detonated since 1951.

“If they go down this (testing) path, then the position that was stated by the president of the Russian Federation will be triggered – that we will be forced to mirror this as well. This is when a completely different situation arises, but the responsibility for whether it will or won’t arise lies with Washington.”

Russia is currently locked in what it casts as an existential struggle with the West over Ukraine. Ryabkov made his remarks days after President Vladimir Putin held out the possibility of resuming nuclear testing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: AP

Putin said last Thursday that Russia’s nuclear doctrine – which sets out conditions under which he would press the nuclear button – did not need updating, but added he was not yet ready to say whether or not Moscow needed to resume nuclear tests.

However, Putin said Russia could consider de-ratification of the CTBT to bring itself into line with the United States, which has signed but not ratified that treaty.

Putin’s comments were widely seen by Western security experts as showing that Russia, which has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, was ready to resume nuclear testing if necessary, a move that would be designed to signal intent and evoke fear in any stand-off with the West.

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Ryabkov was cited by Russian news agencies as saying that Russia felt it had no choice but to align itself with Washington’s nuclear testing stance.

The Russian foreign ministry was preparing draft legislation to de-ratify the treaty and Moscow would still interact with the organisation that oversees the test ban after de-ratification, Ryabkov was cited as saying.

“We will transmit our data, receive other people’s data. The moratorium remains in place. We’re just withdrawing ratification. That’s it,” said Ryabkov.

Article was originally published from here

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