As Russia goes to war in Ukraine, Biden speaks in Poland

The U.S. assessment of Russia’s nuclear program remains unchanged, two senior administration officials told CNN, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that Russia is suspending participation in the New START treaty.

U.S. officials remain unsure of what Russia intends to do, given that Russia has stopped participating in the agreement, the officials said.

But officials in President Joe Biden’s administration still believe the United States will know if Russia begins to expand its nuclear program.

“We have full confidence in our ability to monitor these issues,” a senior administration official said when asked whether the United States would know if Russia began to expand its existing nuclear program. “New START is an important tool, but it’s not the only tool at our disposal.”

The official would not elaborate on the tools in the arsenal that the United States has. Historically, the United States has relied on intelligence gathering to monitor Russia’s nuclear program, in addition to information gathered as part of New START.

The Biden administration’s confidence in monitoring Russia’s nuclear program mirrored earlier comments by State Department spokesman Ned Price.

“We haven’t seen any reason to change our nuclear posture, our strategic posture, but it’s something we monitor every day,” Price said on “CNN This Morning.”

About the Nuclear Weapons Treaty: The treaty limits the United States and Russia to deploying no more than 1,550 nuclear warheads and no more than 700 missiles and bombers. It also requires on-site inspections as part of compliance checks. Russia has not complied with the treaty for months because it did not allow the inspections that were part of it. Haven’t had inspections since 2020 as they stopped due to Covid-19 and never resumed.

If Russia goes ahead with its invasion of Ukraine, Putin will double down on his commitment to war. U.S. officials are careful to say the efforts would hinder Russia’s ability to build up its nuclear program, but some believe they are unlikely to be involved in the efforts while the war is ongoing.

“I don’t want to assess whether this overwhelms them to the point that they’re somehow excluded from taking steps to develop their nuclear arsenal, but … they have a lot of problems at their hands on,” one official said. “I think they’ll be careful not to chew too much.”

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