GOP chairmen: US must respond to Russia's arms treaty violations

GOP chairmen: US must respond to Russia's arms treaty violations
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Two top House Republican chairmen are slamming President Obama for failing to respond to Russia’s violations of a decades-old arms control treaty, warning that violations have gotten worse.

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“It has become apparent to us that the situation regarding Russia’s violation has worsened, and Russia is now in material breach of the treaty,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (Texas) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (Calif.) wrote in a Wednesday letter to Obama.

In 2014, the administration publicly accused Russia of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by flight-testing banned missiles. The treaty bans ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

Thornberry and Nunes’s letter does not elaborate on how the situation has worsened. But a New York Times article Wednesday said U.S. officials are concerned that Russia is producing more missiles than needed for a flight-test program, which could indicate the Kremlin is building a force that could ultimately be deployed.

After the 2014 accusation, the State Department testified that Russia would face economic sanctions, and the Pentagon testified that it would develop a series of military responses, Thornberry and Nunes wrote.

But those consequences have not come to fruition, they said.

“We understand that your administration is not permitting the military to pursue options recommended to you by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey,” they wrote.

In a statement accompanying the release of the letter, Thornberry accused Obama of dragging his feet on the response to the treaty violation despite the president's quickness in responding to Russia’s election-related hacks this year.

“To be clear, any Russian involvement in our political process is unacceptable,” Thornberry said. “But this administration's failure to confront the Russians for cheating on the INF Treaty encourages more Russian misbehavior and leads to a more dangerous world."

In his own statement, Nunes said that failing to respond adds to a perception of American weakness.

“The ‘strategic patience’ touted by this administration is a ridiculous euphemism for passivity and paralysis that invites further aggressive actions by Russia and other international pariahs,” Nunes added. “ ‘Strategic patience’ is a misleading description of this administration’s policy — it is more accurate to call it ‘strategic incoherence.’ ”