HOUSE LEADERS: RUSSIA IN ‘MATERIAL BREACH’ OF INF TREATY
Two House committee chairmen wrote to President Obama this week revealing that Russian violations of a key missile treaty had worsened and that Moscow unambiguously cheated on the accord.
“It has become apparent to us that the situation regarding Russia’s violation has worsened and Russia is now in material breach of the treaty,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, Texas Republican, and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, California Republican, wrote Monday.
The lawmakers were referring to Russia’s failure to adhere to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which bans Washington and Moscow from building missiles with ranges of 310 miles to 3,400 miles. Mr. Thornberry and Mr. Nunes did not provide details about what led them to conclude that the treaty breach had worsened.
U.S. officials have said Russian flight-testing of a new cruise missile, identified by the Pentagon as the SSC-X-8, prompted the U.S. initial determination that Moscow had violated the accord. An administration official said the assessment is based on intelligence indicating that Russia moved beyond flight-testing to production of the illegal cruise missile.
Mr. Thornberry and Mr. Nunes noted that the treaty is the only accord to eliminate an entire class of nuclear arms and that its provisions ban flight-testing, production or possession of groundlaunched or cruise missiles with intermediate ranges.
“While your administration finally stated in 2014 (as a result of pressure from our committees) what had been well-understood before then — that Russia was illegally flight testing intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles — neither the State Department nor the Defense Department imposed consequences on Russia,” the lawmakers wrote.
The State Department has not imposed sanctions against Russia, and the Pentagon has been blocked from developing military options in response to the treaty breach.
“We understand that your administration is not permitting the military to pursue options recommended to you by the former chairman of the joint chiefs, Gen. Martin Dempsey,” the lawmakers said.
Mr. Thornberry and Mr. Nunes urged Mr. Obama to abandon his policy to curb U.S. nuclear forces, such as eliminating one leg of the missilesubmarine-bomber triad or halting a needed nuclear modernization. They also requested that the State Department hit Russia with sanctions for the treaty violation.
The Russian treaty breach was identified prior to 2014 by U.S. intelligence agencies but was kept secret by the Obama administration in a bid to promote its agenda of seeking additional arms control agreements with Moscow.
“This administration is quick to react when the Russians release information relating to the election, but when it comes to violating nuclear treaties, the president only seems willing to drag his feet,” said Mr. Thornberry. The administration’s failure to confront Russian arms cheating “encourages more Russian misbehavior and leads to a more dangerous world.”
Mr. Nunes called the administration’s failure to respond to the INF violation “another misstep contributing to the spreading perception of American weakness and indecisiveness.”
“The ‘strategic patience’ touted by this administration is a ridiculous euphemism for passivity and paralysis that invites further aggressive actions by Russia and other international pariahs,” he said.