Russia deploys cruise missile in violation of arms treaty: report

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Russia has deployed a cruise missile in violation of a landmark arms treaty with the United States, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The deployment of the missile would violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

The news of the deployment comes as the Trump administration deals with the fallout from Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser. Flynn stepped down after reports that he communicated with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. about sanctions prior to President Trump’s inauguration and misled Vice President Pence about it.

It also comes after Trump reportedly dismissed a separate arms treaty with Russia as a bad deal and called for the United States to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.”

{mosads}The United States previously publicly accused Russia of violating the INF Treaty by flight-testing the banned missiles in 2014. The treaty bans ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

Since then, Russia has moved ahead with the program. The country also deployed a battalion to somewhere within Russia in December, the Times reported, citing unnamed administration officials.

A second battalion remains at Russia’s missile test site at Kapustin Yar, in the country’s southeast, the Times reports.

The missile had been referred to by American officials as the SSC-X-8, according to the Times. But the X has been dropped, indicating that American intelligence officials believe it’s out of the development phase and operational.

The deployment of the missile could put NATO and U.S. forces in Europe at risk.

It could also present political challenges to the Trump administration, which has already come under fire for wanting to improve relations with Moscow. The issue has come to a fever pitch in recent days in the wake of the Flynn controversy.

Trump has also previously alarmed arms control advocates for what they say is his cavalier attitude about nuclear weapons and arms control treaties.

During a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump reportedly dismissed the 2010 New START treaty as one of several bad deals negotiated by former President Obama. The treaty caps the number of nuclear warheads the United States and Russia can deploy.

Trump also tweeted in December that “the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

The reported violation of the INF treaty brought new calls Tuesday for Trump to respond to Russia.

“This isn’t a parlor game – this is a real time threat to the security of the U.S. and our allies,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in a statement. “The president must make clear to our NATO allies that we remain firmly committed to their security. There is no room for equivocation here – we need to send a clear signal this action is unacceptable.”

Former Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), the executive director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said in a statement that Trump should react with “resolve and reason.”

“There will undoubtedly be calls for the Trump administration, and perhaps the president’s own inclination, to react to the reported violation with bombast or extreme rhetoric and actions,” Tierney said. “That would serve no useful purpose other than to further destabilize an already tense situation.”

Updated at 5:26 p.m.

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