On Tuesday, a Whitehouse official said that a cruise missile has been deployed from Russia in a violation of an arms control treaty.
The United States originally signed the intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with the Soviet Union, and it was honored later by its successor states.
Three years ago the Obama administration had accused the Russian government of violating this Cold War-era arms treaty by testing a cruise missile, capable of carrying nuclear tips, which the treaty clearly forbade.
The treaty is considered as a catalyst that sped up the end of the cold war, and reducing the chances of nuclear confrontation, and so violating this treaty could add considerable strain on international relationships between the two countries.
The Russian government later denied this accusation stating that they have not violated the INF treaty.
This makes the treaty a possible topic for discussion by Jim Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, in his upcoming NATO meeting, since it has stirred restlessness in the white house with its potential damage to US-Russian relations. Senator John McCain conveyed the necessity of keeping the US nuclear presence in Europe at the ready to convey the seriousness of the situation.
“Russia’s deployment of nuclear-tipped ground-launched cruise missiles in violation of the INF treaty is a significant military threat to U.S. forces in Europe and our NATO allies” Said Senator McCain.
Senator Tom Cotton shares McCain’s concern as well, recommending that the US nuclear forces in Europe be built up in light of Russia’s violations. Similarly, Ash Carter, the former head of the pentagon, stated that violating the treaty by the Russians opens the way for the United States to strengthen its nuclear presence in Europe as well.
While the Obama administration preferred to uphold the treaty and argue the violations with the Russian Government, the pentagon during that time had started taking counter measures to prepare for possible missile moves.
This is no doubt a testing moment for the Whitehouse as president Trump’s administration has to deal with the situation in the absence of a national security advisor. The position remains empty after Michael Flynn was forced to resign from the position under allegations of misleading Vice President Mike Pence before Barack Obama left the white house.
According to the New York Times, there are two Russian battalions armed with the aforementioned cruise missiles; one remains in Kapustin, while the other was moved to an unspecified operational base within Russia, although, the report remains unconfirmed by the State Department.
“The administration is undertaking an extensive review of Russia’s ongoing INF treaty violation in order to assess the potential security implications for the United States and its allies and partners,” said Mark Toner on behalf of the State Department.