Russia may block foreign inspections of their nuclear weapons due to threats and sanctions from the West over their occupation of Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine.
“The unfounded threats towards Russia from the United States and NATO over its policy on Ukraine are seen by us as an unfriendly gesture that allows the declaration of force majeure circumstances,” a high-ranking defence ministry official, who was not named, said in a statement to all Russian news agencies.
“We are ready to take this step in response to the announcement by the Pentagon about stopping cooperation between the defence institutions of Russia and the United States,” the Russian defence ministry official added.
“Inasmuch as these inspections are a matter of trust, then in a situation where the United States has de facto declared the imposition of sanctions then there cannot be normal, bilateral contacts on observing agreements.”
Russia agreed to weapons inspections with the West in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and Vienna Document between Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). START was signed by Obama and then-President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010 and started in February 2011.
A failure to comply with these inspections could only worsen the tensions in a highly volatile situation.
Crimea is home to over 58% ethnic Russians and the Russian Black Sea Fleet. After Ukraine’s parliament ousted Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych, Crimea’s parliament dissolved their government and appointed a pro-Russian chairman. They sought help from Russiann President Vladimir Putin and formally asked to join the Russian Federation. The referendum is scheduled for March 16.
Pro-Russian protesters and Russian soldiers seized Crimea’s government buildings, airports, ferry terminals and surrounded many Ukraine military bases. On March 3, the US stopped all trade and investment talks and military engagements with Russia. Then, on March 6, the US went a step further and implemented visa restrictions on Russians and Crimeans who are a threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty. The European Union froze the assets of 18 people who are accused of embezzling Ukraine’s state funds and ended talks on visa-free travel with Russia.