The Russian ambassador to Britain has accused the Government of violating its international treaty obligations by raising the cap on its stockpile of nuclear warheads.
Andrei Kelin said the announcement in the Integrated Review of foreign and defence policy that it was raising the limit from 180 warheads to 260 had come as a “big surprise”.
In an interview with LBC’s Swarbrick On Sunday programme, he said the review had offered no justification for its description of Russia as an “acute threat” and that the political relationship between London and Moscow was now “nearly dead”.
Mr Kelin expressed bafflement at the decision to lift the cap on the nuclear stockpile, saying it violated the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty – a claim which the Government has denied.
“If UK is going to continue to raise a number of nuclear warheads, and this was a big surprise for the whole world, I will say even for the American experts. So they think ‘UK, what are you doing?’” he said.
“You are increasing a number of warheads by 40%. This is a violation of the treaty of non-proliferation and many, many other agreements that are saying only a decline or a reduction in the number of nukes.”
Mr Kelin said the claims Russia represented a threat to the UK “boil down” to the poisoning in Salisbury of the former spy Sergei Skripal which, he said, lacked “substance or information” and was “all false”.
“In the review, there are 14 times Russia (is) mentioned as an acute threat to the United Kingdom. But there is no single proof or explanation to any kind of a formulation,” he said.
“In some places, Russia has been accused as being a threat, well, for its cultural influence in truth.”
He said Moscow had on a number occasions offered to discuss issues such as cyber but had always been rebuffed by the UK.
“We have said let’s sit down and talk about that. But no response. If other things are worrying Britain, let us sit down at the table and discuss what it is, what are the concerns,” he said.
“But if you will read, thoroughly, this integrated concept, you will see that there is no mentioning of a dialogue at all about Russia. Accusations, accusations, accusations. This is very different from other strategic papers.”
He said the attitude of the British Government had effectively “demolished” most of the relationship with Russia.
“We are preserving it mainly in the economic field and cultural field. But as for political field, it is nearly dead,” he said.
In response to the ambassadors comments, a Government spokesman said: “The Integrated Review sets out the Government’s vision of the UK’s role in the world through to 2030.
“Modernising and strengthening the UK’s security and nuclear deterrence is a key part of this and we can best protect ourselves and our Nato allies by the continued operation of a minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent.”
Labour will not support Government moves to increase the number of nuclear warheads in its stockpile, according to Lisa Nandy.
UK ministers previously committed to reducing the level to a maximum of 180 by the middle of the decade, but now the stockpile could be up to 260.
Shadow foreign secretary Ms Nandy said ministers have yet to justify a decision which has “baffled” the Opposition and others.
She added Labour “won’t support” the decision until it can be explained by the Government, suggesting it will either abstain or vote against the measure.
Asked if Labour would support another 80 nuclear weapons, Ms Nandy told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are absolutely baffled, as many Tory MPs are as well, about why the Government has chosen this moment – at the point at which the United States has stepped forward to try to deal with nuclear proliferation, signing a new treaty with Russia, at the point we face a growing threat from Iran from nuclear weapons – to do it.
“There may be a reason why they’ve done this.
“One of the examples mooted has been perhaps they need to have two nuclear deterrents concurrently.”