The United States’ “destructive policy” increases the risk of the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons worldwide. Nikolai Patrushev, the chairman of the Russian National Security Council, warns about this.
“The natural consequence of the United States’ destructive policies is a deterioration in global security. The risk that nuclear, chemical and biological weapons will be used is therefore increasing. The international arms control regime has been undermined.”
Nikolai Patrushev, chairman of the Russian National Security Council, delivered this message at a conference with his colleagues from former Soviet republics on Wednesday. The 72-year-old Patrushev is one of President Vladimir Putin’s most important advisers. The two have known each other since the 1970s when they both worked for the KGB, the Soviet Union’s secret service. In his current position he is one of the architects of Russia’s foreign and security policy.
Patrushev’s statement was later confirmed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in Moscow. “Patrushev is the chairman of the Security Council. He’s part of the Kremlin. His statements are Kremlin statements.”
According to Peskov, it is indeed the West that increases the risk of, among other things, a nuclear escalation with its “aggressive behavior” towards Russia. According to Russia, dialogue on nuclear weapons remains essential, but is impossible if Washington continues to “give lessons” to Moscow.
The statements by Patrushev and Peskov, two of the most influential voices in Moscow, come as international tensions over arms control continue to rise. The unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 already caused ruptures in the decades-long process of gradual arms reduction. These rifts widened further last week when President Putin signed a law causing Russia to withdraw from the global treaty banning nuclear weapons testing (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty). That UN treaty, which dates from 1996, prohibits any form of nuclear explosion.
Putin’s signature was a formality, after the Duma had previously agreed. Putin had taken the initiative for the withdrawal, saying he wanted to restore balance with the United States. Washington also signed the treaty, but never ratified it. That is why Russia should not do that either, Putin believes.
Moscow says the withdrawal of ratification does not change its policy on nuclear weapons and that it has no plans to conduct new tests unless the Americans do so. The last Russian nuclear test was in 1990, during the Soviet Union. The US last conducted a nuclear test in 1992.
Nevertheless, Russia conducted a new and reportedly successful test on Sunday with an intercontinental ballistic missile, which can also be equipped with nuclear warheads. The test was carried out with a Boelava missile, which has a range of 8,000 kilometers. The missile was launched into the White Sea from the nuclear submarine Alexander III and hit its target “on schedule” at a test site on the Kamchatka Peninsula, in eastern Russia.
On Monday, the Kremlin also rejected an agreement on conventional weapons that was concluded between the Soviet Union and the West in 1990. The so-called CFE treaty set limits on the number of tanks and other heavy weapons in Europe, and had to be terminated at the end of the Cold War to put an end to the ongoing, decades-long arms race between the two blocs.
The treaty prescribed, among other things, how many tanks, artillery and other weapons the signatories could station in Europe. They also had to reveal how many of those weapons they had stationed and allow inspectors to check that.
After Russia withdrew from the treaty on Monday, NATO did the same on Tuesday. The 31 NATO member states and prospective member Sweden “condemn Russia’s decision to withdraw” from the treaty, NATO said. As important as the treaty was as a “cornerstone of Euro-Atlantic security”, there was no option but to suspend it for as long as necessary as Russia had done the same, the military alliance said.
It is not the first time that Patrushev has lashed out at the West. He is considered one of the hawks in the Kremlin and once threatened the United States with “annihilation” in March. “Russia is patient and does not intimidate anyone,” he said at the time, “but it does have modern and unique weapons that can destroy any opponent, including the United States, in the event of a threat to Russia’s existence.”
In his statements, Patrushev did not refer to which weapons could be used, but he did explicitly point to the West as the main culprit. The United States in particular is trying by all means to maintain its “waning influence” on the world stage by sowing chaos in the world. To this end, they are – still according to Patrushev – stoking the conflict in the Middle East and escalating the war in Ukraine by continuing to support Kiev with weapons.
Officially no more chemical weapons
Officially, neither the United States nor Russia have any chemical weapons in their stockpiles. The global Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which monitors the implementation of treaties banning chemical weapons, reported in July this year that the US had become the latest country to destroy its officially declared stockpile.
OPCW Director General Fernando Arias then spoke of “a historic success in the field of disarmament”. Only four countries worldwide did not sign the ban: Egypt, Israel, North Korea and South Sudan. The last time proven chemical weapons were used in a conflict was in 2018 by Syrian President Assad during the Syrian civil war.
Officially, Russia also no longer has chemical weapons since it gradually destroyed them after joining the ban in 1997. However, since the start of the war in Ukraine, there have been fears that the country might use chemical weapons. On a smaller scale, former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with the famous nerve agent Novichok in 2018. Opposition politician Alexei Navalny was also later administered the nerve agent.
Russia has repeatedly accused the United States of financing and operating “secret laboratories” in Ukraine where the country is said to be working on biological weapons. These conspiracy theories have never been substantiated with evidence, but are regularly resurfaced as part of the Russian propaganda war.