Russia Breach of Nuclear Treaty Must be Seen in 'Most Sinister Terms,' Lawmakers Say
Two months have passed since reports of Russia's violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty came to light, and members of Congress are pushing the Obama administration to hold Moscow accountable and stop depleting the U.S. stockpile while Russia cheats.
At the end of January, The New York Times cited anonymous U.S. officials as saying Russia has been testing medium-range nuclear missiles since 2008. Washington reportedly brought up the issue with Russia several times since suspicions surfaced in 2012 and was taking its concerns over compliance to NATO.
The report meant that Russia was testing the ground-launched cruise missile in potential defiance of the treaty when Obama lobbied the Senate hard to ratify the New START Treaty in 2009 despite lawmakers’ concerns about Russia and the administration’s attitude toward the U.S. stockpile.
Today, Senate and House members introduced a resolution "expressing the sense of Congress that the President should hold the Russian Federation accountable for being in material breach of its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty."
On the Senate side, the resolution was introduced by Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), David Vitter (R-La.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) signed on this morning as the lead Democratic co-sponsor.
A companion resolution in the House was introduced by House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence Chairman Joe Heck (R-Nev.), and House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Chairman Ted Poe (R-Texas).
Noting that Russia's "material breach" of the treaty "poses a threat to the United States, its deployed forces, and its allies," the resolution calls on Obama to "demand the Russian Federation completely and verifiably eliminate the military systems that constitute the material breach of its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty."
"The President should not engage in further reductions of United States nuclear forces generally and should not engage in nuclear arms reduction negotiations with the Russian Federation specifically until such complete and verifiable elimination of the military systems has occurred," continues the resolution.
"The President, in consultation with United States allies, should consider whether it is in the national security interests of the United States to unilaterally remain a party to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty if the Russian Federation is still in material breach of such Treaty beginning one year after the date of the adoption of this concurrent resolution."
In a joint statement, Rubio and the House sponsors said "fresh off the invasion of a sovereign state, Russian cheating cannot be interpreted in anything but the most sinister terms."
"Cheating is not a separate issue, but is rather recognized as an equal part of President Putin’s long term plan for a resurgent Russia," the lawmakers said.
“We have introduced this resolution because the viability of future arms control agreements depends on the reliability of current ones. The INF treaty is the central arms control accord of the nuclear era. We must treat it seriously and pursue violations relentlessly. There is simply no point in having treaties unless both sides treat them with the utmost fidelity, and act in a manner binding to the agreement.”