Russians may be testing 'low yield' nuclear weapons in violation of treaty

(Photo by Brian Murphy)

A top U.S. military official has said that U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russia may be conducting low-yield nuclear testing that may be violation of a major international treaty.

Lieutenant General Robert Ashley said in a speech on May 29, 2019, that Russia could be doing tests that go "beyond what is believed necessary, beyond zero yield."

The problem, he said, was that Russia "has not been willing to affirm" they are adhering to the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.


Asked specifically whether U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded Russia was conducting such tests in violation of the treaty, Ashley, who is director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said, "They've not affirmed the language of zero yield."

"We believe they have the capability to do it, the way that they're set up," Ashley said during an appearance at the Hudson Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

The Defense Intelligence Agency is the Defense Department's main in-house intelligence organization.

There was no immediate comment by the Kremlin or the Russian Defense Ministry about the conclusions, which were first reported on May 29, 2019, by The Wall Street Journal.

But Vladimir Shamanov, chairman of the defense committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, called Ashley's statement "irresponsible."

"It would be impossible to make a more irresponsible statement," Interfax quoted Shamanov as saying.

Vladimir Shamanov.


"These kinds of statements reveal that the professionalism of the military is systemically falling in America," said Shamanov, a retired colonel general and a former commander of Russia's Airborne Troops. "These words from a U.S. intelligence chief indicate that he is only an accidental person in this profession and he is in the wrong job."

The U.S. assertion comes with several major arms-control treaties under strain, largely due to the toxic state of relations between Washington and Moscow.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump's administration announced it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, an agreement that eliminated an entire class of missiles.

Another treaty, New START, is due to expire in 2021 unless the United States and Russia agree to extend it for five years.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.