The United States on Monday accused Russia of testing a ground-fired, intermediate-range missile in violation of a Cold War-era arms control pact.
Moscow is accused of testing a ground-launched cruise missile with a range prohibited by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Russia and the United States are legally banned under the accord from testing or deploying cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges between 310 and 3,400 miles.
An unidentified Obama administration official in a statement released to the media said: "This is a very serious matter which we have attempted to address with Russia for some time now," Reuters reported. "We encourage Russia to return to compliance with its obligations under the treaty and to eliminate any prohibited items in a verifiable manner."
Russia first started testing the cruise missile as far back as 2008, the New York Times reported, citing unidentified U.S. officials. The Obama administration determined in 2011 there was reason to believe Moscow was in breach of the INF accord. However, it was not until last spring that the State Department's top-ranking arms control official, Rose Gottemoeller, broached the subject with Russian officials, according to the newspaper.
Earlier this month, a meeting of President Obama's top national security officials unanimously agreed the cruise missile trials violated the treaty, high-ranking officials told the Times. The United States will formally make this contention public when the State Department shortly releases its yearly report on worldwide arms control compliance.
Obama personally shared his concerns about treaty violations in a letter sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. The U.S. leader requested a bilateral senior-level dialogue that would focus on actions Moscow could take to return to treaty compliance. Secretary of State John Kerry also discussed the matter with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in a Sunday phone conversation.
U.S. officials do not believe the cruise missile is presently fielded.
The United States should not respond to Russia's alleged violation by withdrawing from the accord, said ex-Bush administration official Stephen Rademaker.
"For the United States to declare that we are pulling out of the treaty in response to what Russia has done would actually be welcome in Moscow because they are wrestling with the question of how to terminate," Rademaker said during a congressional hearing earlier this month. "We shouldn't make it any easier for them. We should force them to take the onus of that."
Separately, a senior Russian official said the Kremlin has no plans to pull out of the New START accord, a separate arms control pact that limits the former Cold War opponents' arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons, RIA Novosti reported.
Some Russian lawmakers earlier this month called for Moscow to to withdraw from the strategic-forces treaty in retaliation for U.S. sanctions imposed as punishment for Russian actions in eastern Ukraine.
"I think that we shouldn't judge on any environment and current processes not related to the sphere of control over weapons," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with Rossiya Segodnya International News Agency. "It is simply impossible to find anything in this [New START treaty] document that would now demand a radically new opinion to preserve it. And if so, there are no grounds to question this tool that in general, is really aimed at strengthening our security."