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U.S. to NATO: Russia May Have Violated Arms Control Pact

Then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, left, and U.S. President Ronald Reagan sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty at a December 1987 summit in Washington. The United States reportedly has briefed NATO officials that Russia's recent testing of a cruise missile may have breached the accord.
Then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, left, and U.S. President Ronald Reagan sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty at a December 1987 summit in Washington. The United States reportedly has briefed NATO officials that Russia's recent testing of a cruise missile may have breached the accord. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States has shared with NATO its concern over Russia's testing of a new missile that may have violated a bilateral 1987 nuclear arms treaty.

On Jan. 17, Acting U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller in a closed-door meeting in Brussels told alliance member states that Russia was conducting flight trials of a land-based cruise missile in possible breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the New York Times reports.

The arms control pact required the Soviet Union and the United States to dismantle all of their ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles, and to cease testing, manufacturing and stockpiling such weapons.

U.S. officials think the Russian military started testing the missile as far back as 2008, according to the report. Since last May, Gottemoeller has discussed the tests repeatedly with Russian officials, who say they have looked into the issue and do not see it as a concern. Thus far, the United States has refrained from officially accusing Moscow of being in breach of the accord.

President Obama would like to hold new strategic arms control talks with Russia, so his administration has been searching for a solution to addressing concerns over the medium-range missile treaty issues. The aim has been to keep the accord in place and not sour Moscow on new nuclear-reduction negotiations.

"The United States never hesitates to raise treaty compliance concerns with Russia, and this issue is no exception," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "There's an ongoing review process, and we wouldn't want to speculate or prejudge the outcome."

Unidentified officials told the Times it was obvious the missile trials violated the accord. A number of Republican lawmakers also have raised the issue with the White House, calling for the United States to take a harder line with Russia. The issue has been used by some GOP members on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to stall Gottemoeller's nomination to take over permanently as undersecretary of State for arms control.

Russia has hinted it might withdraw from the treaty. Sergei Ivanov, chief of staff for President Vladimir Putin, last June said: "We've signed the agreement, we will obey it. But that could not last forever."

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