In another sign of deteriorating relations between the United States and Russia, the U.S. government said on Monday that Moscow had violated the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty, and urged immediate bilateral talks on the issue.
The Cold War treaty, ratified in 1988, was designed to eliminate ground-launched cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 km (310 to 3,400 miles).
Senior American officials told The New York Times that Russia tested a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile.
“The United States has determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the I.N.F. treaty not to possess, produce or flight test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” that report will say, according to the Times.
The Times reported in January that American officials had informed the NATO allies of the violation.
An administration official told Reuters that the U.S. notified Russia of its determination and called for senior-level talks “with the aim of assuring the United States that Russia will come back into compliance” with the agreement.
The Times notes that the treaty, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan and Russian President Mikhail S. Gorbachev in 1987, “helped seal the end of the Cold War and has been regarded as a cornerstone of American-Russian arms control efforts.”
NATO’s top commander, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, told the Times
in April that the violation would require a response if not resolved: “A weapon capability that violates the I.N.F., that is introduced into the greater European land mass, is absolutely a tool that will have to be dealt with. It can’t go unanswered.”
The official told Reuters that the U.S. “will, of course, consult with allies on this matter to take into account the impact of this Russian violation on our collective security if Russia does not return to compliance.”
The Times reports that “prospects for resolving the violation were also uncertain at best.” Russia has previously expressed interest in ending the agreement, and Russian President Vladimir Putin once described Gorbachev’s decision to sign the accord as “debatable to say the least.”
The issue comes as Europe decides on sanctions against Russia over the Kremlin’s continued meddling in eastern Ukraine, which has continued even after Russian-backed rebels shot down Malaysia Flight MH17 on July 17.
According to a report by The Financial Times, which obtained an EU draft document, the most significant measures “are against Russian banks, most of which will be barred from selling newly-issued bonds or stock to Europeans.”
(Reuters reporting by Roberta Rampton)
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