The United States says that Russia has violated a 1987 arms control treaty by testing a ground-launched ballistic or cruise missile, according to senior American officials, as reported in Tuesday’s New York Times.
President Obama sent a letter to President Putin on Monday notifying him of the U.S. determination, a day before the State Department’s scheduled release of it’s annual report on compliance with arms control treaties.
American officials believe that Russia first began testing cruise missiles as early as 2008, but it was not until the end of 2011 that the Obama administration determined that they were no longer in compliance with the treaty. In 2013, Rose Gottemoeller, the State Department’s senior arms control official, first raised the possibility of a violation with Russian officials.
But the Russians replied that they looked into the allegations and consider the matter closed, according to CBS News.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, more commonly called the I.N.F. Treaty, was signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in 1987. It prohibited the testing of ground-launched cruise missiles capable of flying 300 to 3,400 miles by either the Americans or the Russians. The I.N.F. Treaty became the basis of American-Russian arms control efforts and signaled a new era of cooperation that helped bring down the curtain on the Cold War.
Recent relations between the U.S. and Russia have grown increasingly strained due to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and Putin’s grant of asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
By raising the issue now, the U.S. appears to be placing increased pressure on Russia to back off in Ukraine, as well as to further isolate it from the international community.
Since the days of the George W. Bush administration the Russians have been arguing that the I.N.F. Treaty should be scrapped, so that they could deal with threats from China and Pakistan, and U.S. officials believe that the Russians would welcome an easy excuse to back out of the treaty altogether.
The Obama administration has also been proceeding cautiously in order to avoid jeopardizing the recently-ratified New START treaty, which took effect in February 2011 and requires the U.S. and Russia to reduce the number of their strategic nuclear weapons to no more than 1,550 by February 2018.
Obama last year announced that he wants to cut the number of U.S. nuclear arms by another third and that he would “seek negotiated cuts” with Russia, a goal now complicated by the accusation of a missile treaty violation.