US accuses Russia of violating arms treaty

The Obama administration has accused Russia of violating a landmark arms control treaty by testing a banned ground-launched cruise missile, according to multiple reports.

President Obama made the accusation in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, and administration officials called it a “very serious matter.”

The U.S. has concluded that Russia violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reached in 1987. The treaty bans U.S. and Russian ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles that can fly between 300 and 3,400 miles, according to the New York Times, which first reported the news Monday evening.

On Tuesday, the State Department will formally announce the violation in a report about international compliance on arms control deals. 

“The United States has determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the I.N.F. treaty not to possess, produce or flight test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” the report will say, according to the Times.

U.S officials reportedly believe Russia first began testing cruise missiles as early as 2008, but they don’t think any have been deployed.

Obama's letter says he’s interested in discussing the matter with Russia and bringing its government back into compliance.

Russian officials have said they’ve explored the allegations and that the matter has been closed, according to the Associated Press.

The move comes as the Obama administration prepares to lodge tougher sanctions against Russia in coordination with Europe.

White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken said Monday that Obama discussed the next round of sanctions with his counterparts in Italy, Great Britain, France and Germany during a video conference call that day.

European Union leaders are expected to meet Tuesday to discuss the specifics of their sanctions. On Friday, E.U. ambassadors reached a preliminary deal to impose sector sanctions against Russia in the wake of its involvement in aiding pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine who are believed to have shot down Flight MH17.