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U.S. Says Russia Failed to Correct Violation of Landmark 1987 Arms Control Deal
The State Department reported on Friday that Russia had failed to correct a violation of a landmark arms control accord between Washington and Moscow that prohibits intermediate-range ground-launched missiles.
At issue is the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the I.N.F. Treaty, which the Obama administration says the Russians breached by testing a cruise missile. But American officials have made no discernible headway in persuading the Russians to acknowledge the compliance problem, let alone resolve it.
In December, the Pentagon told Congress that it had developed a range of military options to pressure Russia to remedy the violation or neutralize any advantages it might gain if the diplomatic efforts fail. But no Pentagon countermeasures have been announced.
The American allegation was outlined in the State Department's annual report on compliance with arms control agreements. It comes as the Obama administration has sought to identify new areas for potential cooperation with Russia, including the crisis in Syria, even as it has continued to object to Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine.
The State Department did nothing to draw attention to the report. An unclassified version of it was posted on the agency's website late on Friday afternoon with no advance notice, and no officials were made available to discuss it. (A classified version of the report was provided to Congress earlier this week.)
Representative Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said that the Obama administration had not been forceful enough in pressing Moscow to comply with the agreement.
"Russia's development of intermediate-range nuclear platforms is designed to hold our interests at risk and enable Putin's expansionist policies," Mr. Thornberry said in a statement, referring to President Vladimir V. Putin. "It is not a situation we should accommodate for two years running. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has proposed meaningful military options to deal with Russia's I.N.F. violations. The president should order their implementation without delay."
American officials say that Russia began carrying out flight tests of the missile as early as 2008, and Rose Gottemoeller, the State Department's senior arms control official, first raised the possibility of a violation with Russian officials two years ago.
Despite the allegation of a violation, the State Department report asserted that it was in the interest of the United States not to withdraw from the agreement, which it said "contributes to the security of our allies and to regional stability in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific region." The accord bans American and Russian ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles that are able to fly 300 to 3,400 miles.
It is unclear what steps the Obama administration might take next. Ms. Gottemoeller told Congress in December that the development of ground-launched cruise missiles had proceeded far enough that Russia had "the capability to deploy it."
Brian P. McKeon, a senior Pentagon official, told Congress that any military steps that the United States might take in response to a violation would seek to avoid an escalating spiral of Russian and American actions. But Mr. McKeon added that if a diplomatic solution was not found, "This violation will not go unanswered."
Those concerns are not the only ones about Russian compliance with arms control accords. The State Department report asserted that Russia may have violated troop notification requirements under the Vienna Document, an agreement between the member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Russian forces who were massed near Ukraine last year, the State Department report said, "exceeded personnel and/or equipment levels intended to trigger notification requirements." But when Russia was asked for additional information, "It failed to provide responsive replies."
The report also faulted Russia's adherence to the Open Skies Treaty, which seeks to reduce the risk of war by providing for unarmed observation flights.
In 2014, the report noted, Russia imposed new restrictions on such flights over Kaliningrad, a heavily militarized Russian enclave near the Baltic Sea.
"Russia continues to fail to meet treaty obligations to allow effective observation of its entire territory," the report said.
Russia has leveled its own charges against the United States, including that the Aegis missile defense system that is being deployed in Europe is able to launch intermediate-range missiles.
The State Department report said that this system did not have any "offensive capability" and was allowed by the treaty.
[Source: By Michael R. Gordon, The New York Times, Washington, 05Jun15]
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