Chairmen Warn Punitive Measures for Russia Treaty Violations Can't Wait for Next Administration

The chairmen of the House Intelligence and Armed Services committees demanded that President Obama "finally impose penalties for Russia's near-decade long pattern of violations" of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that leave the accord "on the verge of collapse."

In a letter to Obama today, Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Calif.) reminded the president that his 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 (GLCMs)." At the time, there were no State Department or Pentagon penalties on Russia "despite testimony on at least two occasions... that Russia would face economic sanctions for its illegal behavior" and despite promises from Defense Department leaders that they "would develop a series of military responses to ensure Russia understood the cost of its illegal activity."

Despite Obama signing a bill out of Congress to require such a response, "we understand that your administration is not permitting the military to pursue the options recommended to you by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey," the chairman wrote.

Nunes and Thornberry added that 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."

"We urge you to direct your National Security Council to abandon legacy-building Prague Agenda actions under review this month, such as eliminating a leg of the nuclear triad or reneging on the modernization commitments you made in 2010," the chairmen continued. "Further, in view of such Russian behavior, you should not prematurely extend the New START Treaty (a potential source of leverage with Russia ) or implement destabilizing changes to U.S. nuclear doctrine that guarantees our allies' security. We also urge you to implement the stiff economic penalties your State Department has repeatedly promised and the military response options that General Dempsey recommended to you in 2015."

"U.S. and allied security cannot wait until January 20, 2017."

Nunes called the administration’s "lack of response to Russia’s flagrant violations of the INF treaty" just "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," the Intel chairman said. "‘Strategic patience’ is a misleading description of this administration’s policy – it is more accurate to call it ‘strategic incoherence.’”

Thornberry noted that the White House has been "quick to react when Russians release information relating to the election, but when it comes to violating nuclear treaties, the president only seems willing to drag his feet."

"To be clear, any Russian involvement in our political process is unacceptable," the Armed Services chairman added. "But this administration's failure to confront the Russians for cheating on the INF Treaty encourages more Russian misbehavior and leads to a more dangerous world."