By Martin Matishak - 08/02/14 09:16 AM EDT
Senior lawmakers say it's too early to say if the U.S. should withdraw from a historic arms control deal that has allegedly been breached by Russia.
President Obama spoke with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Friday about Moscow’s compliance with the 1987 nuclear missile treaty.
The call came one day after the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the administration’s accusations as “unfounded,” adding to the deepening rift that between Washington and Moscow.
The U.S. imposed a new round of sanctions on Russia this week over Moscow’s meddling in Ukraine, where it is accused of providing weapons and training to insurgents fighting that country’s government.
Lawmakers said a U.S. withdrawal from the arms treaty should not be a first step, but should also not be off the table.
“I’d rather put the onus on the Russians than to take the position that we have to withdraw,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The Hill. “But obviously if the Russians are unwilling to come into compliance, then you have to consider all options.”
“I think that there’s more of push towards getting Russia to come clean,” said Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), the panel’s top Republican. “That’s the first step, in treaties like this, people wish to take.”
Corker said he thinks there’s no question that Moscow broke the agreement.
The Obama administration argues it would be a mistake for the U.S. to not follow the treaty even if Russia has broken it.
“Frankly, it’s the kind of situation where you want to continue to benefit from the good things you’re getting out of these treaties and, where we’re concerned about non-compliance, you want to continue pressing, and pressing hard,” a senior State Department official said.
And Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed support for the arms agreement.
“The treaty has too much value to say let’s just pull out,” he said.
The INF Treaty was designed to abolish ground-launched cruise missiles with ranges of 310 to 3,400 miles. Roughly 2,700 missiles have been eliminated under the agreement.
-Kristina Wong contributed