Top general: Russia treaty under review is not the one Trump attacked

Top general: Russia treaty under review is not the one Trump attacked
© U.S. Air Force

The commander of U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) on Tuesday said he’s reviewing a landmark arms treaty in light of Russia’s violations of the deal.

Separately, Russia is on track to comply with the New START Treaty, and the military is not reviewing that agreement despite President Trump's criticisms of it, Stratcom commander Gen. John Hyten told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“I have not been directed to review the New START agreement,” Hyten said Tuesday. “I am reviewing the INF agreement based on the recent Russian activity.”

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The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is a landmark deal between Russia and the U.S. that banned ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

The U.S. has publicly accused Russia of violating the treaty multiple times in recent years, most recently this year when the U.S. military publicly accused Russia of deploying a nuclear-tipped cruise missile.

It is unrelated to the 2010 New START Treaty, which requires both the U.S. and Russia to draw down to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads by February 2018.

President Trump has dismissed New START as one of former President Obama’s “bad deals,” calling it a “a one-sided deal.”

But Hyten’s testimony Tuesday that he hasn’t been instructed to review the treaty suggests Trump hasn’t backed up his criticism with a change in policy.

Hyten said all indications are that Russia will meet its obligations by 2018.

“The next key date is 2018,” Hyten told the committee. “I know we’re on track, and the reports I get from the intelligence community and from the State Department is the Russians are on track as well.”

He also reiterated his support for the treaty.

“I’ve stated on the record multiple times — I’ll say it on the record again today — I support the limits that are in the New START Treaty,” Hyten said. “I also look out the future and understand there are nonaccountable weapons, especially on the Russian side, that we need to start addressing. But from a strategic weapons perspective I support the limits of the New START Treaty.”

Meanwhile, the military is continuing to decide how to respond to Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, Hyten said, adding that a response will have to be part of an overall strategy to deal with Russian aggression.

“This breach of the INF Treaty that caused the deployment of a ground launched cruise missile is a concern to us because we have not seen that for quite some time,” he said. “It's another element we're going to have to consider as we look forward to how we deal with Russia.”

Hyten added that the United States “has no defense” for multiple ground-launched cruise missiles.

 

“We have no defense for it, especially in defense of our European allies,” he said. “That system can range and threaten most of the continent of Europe depending on where it is deployed. We'll talk about that in detail in the closed hearing tomorrow, senator. But it is a concern and we're going to have to figure out how deal with it as a nation.”