Defense bill would limit implementation of nuclear arms treaty with Russia

Defense bill would limit implementation of nuclear arms treaty with Russia
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The annual defense policy bill would limit the implementation of an arms treaty with Russia after Democrats failed to remove the provision in a subcommittee markup Thursday.

The strategic forces subcommittee portion of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would ban funds from being used to extend the implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction (START) Treaty, which limits the number of deployed Russian and U.S. nuclear warheads, unless the president certifies that Moscow is in compliance with a separate arms treaty, known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

An amendment to strike the provision, offered by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), the subcommittee's ranking member, failed in a voice vote that appeared to be along party lines.

“It seems to me illogical and nonsensical to punish them by limiting the New START Treaty renewal,” Cooper said. “The violation has to do with the INF Treaty, and that primarily has to do with the security of Europe. So to punish Russia by not allowing us to consider an extension of the New START Treaty, which protects America, needlessly involves the safety of our nation. Plus, it’s just completely illogical.”

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The 2010 New START Treaty requires both the United States and Russia to draw down to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads by February 2018. It is due for extension in 2021.

The separate INF Treaty, a landmark 1987 deal between Russia and the United States, bans ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

The United States has accused Russia of repeated violations of the INF Treaty, including the deployment a nuclear-tipped cruise missile.

At the same, the U.S. military has supported keeping the New START Treaty in place.

“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,” Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said in April. “I also look out to 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.”

Still, President Trump has dismissed New START as one of former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFeehery: A whole new season of 'Game of Thrones' Mercury rollback is a direct threat to our children's health Lightfoot takes office as Chicago's first black woman mayor MORE’s “bad deals,” calling it “one-sided.”

On Thursday, Republicans on the subcommittee said the provision is meant to put Russia on notice and would not interrupt the implementation of New START since it does not comes up for renewal until 2021.

“This amendment does not undermine the New START Treaty, which does not expire until 2021,” subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said. “It does, however, tell the Russians that they will be made to pay a price for the violation of the INF Treaty.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) added the United States should not trust Russia to adhere to New START if the Kremlin is not following the INF Treaty.

“It’s not a matter of punishment; it’s a matter of trust,” Lamborn said. “If they’re violating the INF Treaty, showing disregard for treaties they’ve entered into with the United States, that should give us pause about their willingness and ability to with another treaty.”

But Democrats argued that New START has stricter inspection provisions than the INF Treaty and that doing away with those inspections would hurt the U.S. New START allows for 18 facilities inspections per year.

“The INF did not have a robust inspection process built into it, and over the years the current violations occurred without our direct knowledge,” Rep. John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiOvernight Defense: Lawmakers on edge over Iran tensions | Questions rise after State pulls personnel from Iraq | Senators demand briefing | House panel advances 0B Pentagon spending bill | Warren offers plan on climate threats to military House Dems unveil bill to limit Pentagon's ability to transfer military construction dollars Unchain seniors from chained inflation index MORE (D-Calif.) said. “The New START Treaty has an extremely important element in it, and that is the inspection mechanisms that are in the treaty. If we do not renew the New START, extend it and renew it, the inspections cease. It is not in the interest of the United States that those inspections stop. But it is in our interest that we continue to inspect and gain knowledge as to what is going on with regard to the Russian nuclear enterprise.”