A top Russian diplomat said Thursday, Russia will continue to give the US advance notice about its missile tests even though it suspended the last remaining nuclear arms treaty between the two countries. Those notifications are an essential part of strategic stability, allowing Russia and the United States to correctly interpret each other’s moves and make sure that neither country mistakes a test launch for a missile attack.
Moscow’s decision came in response to a Tuesday statement from the United States that it would no longer provide biannual nuclear weapons data exchanges to Russia as required under the New START treaty, a 2010 pact that limits each side to 1,550 warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers.
According to Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the suspension of information exchanges is meant to be temporary and will not affect other confidence-building measures under the HCOC, such as annual reports and pre-launch notifications that the code has been providing since 2004.
But two foreign officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the code’s confidentiality rules questioned whether Moscow’s proposal was realistic. They pointed to a growing list of HCOC members, including France, Japan, Norway, and Ukraine, as well as other nonmembers, which include missile and space technology powers like Brazil, China, India, Iran, and Pakistan.
These confidence-building mechanisms can evolve in various forms, like the deconfliction hotline that emerged during the Syria war or the HCOC’s pre-launch notifications. But for decades, risk reduction measures like those have been a hallmark of U.S.-Russian relations, as demonstrated this week by the US’s warning of a Russian launch in Ukraine.