Congressional chairmen are urging President Obama to stand by his 2009 words that arms control treaty “rules must be binding; violations must be punished; words must mean something.”
“It is in agreement with that pledge that we urge you to act on the compelling evidence pointing to Russia’s material breach and circumvention of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Defending this principle is especially important given the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) wrote to Obama.
Russia has been reportedly testing medium-range nuclear missiles since 2008 in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Washington has reportedly brought up the issue with Russia several times and is now taking its concerns over compliance to NATO.
The lawmakers note that even though the administration “has been aware of Russia’s illegal and destabilizing actions for years,” officials “have to date failed to directly confront their Russian counterparts.”
“This stands in stark contrast to the past. When faced with a Soviet violation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, President Ronald Reagan used the full power of his office to publicly confront – and ultimately reverse – that serious breach,” the chairmen wrote. “We believe it is imperative that Russian officials not be permitted to believe they stand to gain from a material breach of this or any other treaty. To fail to act would only invite further violations by Russia, which would inevitably undermine our national security and that of our NATO allies.”
They added that “other countries around the world will be closely watching the U.S. response to any Russian violation,” especially the Islamic Republic.
“As the United States and other world powers pursue nuclear negotiations with Iran, it is vital that Members of Congress have confidence that the Administration will forcefully confront all violations by Iran when they occur. In this regard, your Administration’s response to Russia’s actions has not been reassuring,” the letter states.
“We would also note that while Russia is aggressively recapitalizing its nuclear forces and violating its treaty commitments, U.S. nuclear forces have gone for a generation without modernization. In this respect, we believe that it is imperative that you recommit your Administration to undertake the comprehensive modernization of U.S. nuclear forces pledged in your 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and in your personal commitments during the ratification of the New START treaty. In practically every instance, these programs have been delayed, deferred, or cancelled altogether. In contrast with Russian advances, these updates to the U.S. arsenal can be made in complete compliance with our treaty obligations. With this in mind, it is clear that the U.S. should not pursue a new nuclear arms control agreement with Russia, or undertake any other nuclear force reductions, until that country has come into full compliance with its existing obligations.”