MOSCOW – Russia rebuked the United States on Tuesday for deciding to hold back some disarmament projects because of doubts over Moscow's commitment to biological and chemical weapons treaties, accusing Washington itself of undercutting disarmament efforts.
"Such actions can have the most negative impact on achieving mutual trust and can be reflected in the two countries' cooperation in liquidating weapons of mass destruction and in the sphere of nonproliferation," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in a statement.
The U.S. government put Russia on notice last week it would not certify Russia's full commitment to carrying out the treaties. Such certification is necessary to disburse new funds for existing U.S.-Russian programs to reduce the threat of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Among the reasons behind the U.S. decision were Russia's refusal to share a bioengineered strain of anthrax it had long promised the United States, refusal to provide access to biological institutes run by the Defense Ministry, and failure to own up to decades of secret work on biological and chemical weapons, The New York Times reported. U.S. officials say such withholding of access and information has dented faith in Russia's commitment to disarmament.
Yakovenko said the U.S. decision was not accompanied by concrete examples, and it caused "bewilderment" in Moscow. Russia certainly is observing the terms of the two treaties, he said, and any U.S. concerns could be discussed under existing mechanisms for dialogue.
He added that his government found it "incomprehensible" that the United States could cast aspersions on Moscow's fulfillment of the biological weapons treaty after a November summit when the U.S. and Russian presidents pledged to expand cooperation in the area.
"One gets the impression that the American references to Russia's supposed non-fulfillment of its international obligations are being used basically in order to distract attention from the United States' own actions," Yakovenko said.
He noted that the U.S. government had refused to support a protocol that would have provided for inspections under the 1972 Biological Weapons Treaty. U.S. negotiators argued that the inspection system wouldn't work and would expose U.S. secrets to its enemies, but its position provoked protest even from close allies, who argued that the inspections would put teeth in a treaty that is difficult to enforce.
Yakovenko also accused Washington of "disorganizing" the activity of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Last month, Washington initiated a vote of no-confidence in organization chief Jose Bustani, accusing him of financial mismanagement. The U.S. government has said it will not provide funds to the organization -- for which it provides 22 percent of the budget -- until Bustani goes.