Compromise defense bill includes $58M to counter Russia arms treaty violations

The final version of the annual defense policy bill sets aside $58 million dollars to respond to Russia’s violations of an arms treaty without scrapping the treaty altogether, according to committee aides and summaries released Wednesday.

The bill would also restrict spending on a separate treaty on observation flights that the United States has also accused Russia of violating.

“The conferees took a firm view that more needs to be done to make sure that we maintain our competitive advantage against the potential adversary of Russia, and so we took steps to ensure that we have improved our capabilities over the long term to maintain that competitive capability,” a senior House Armed Services Committee staffer told reporters Wednesday.


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 repeatedly accused Russia of violating the treaty, including by deploying a nuclear-tipped cruise missile.

The House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would have allowed for $50 million to respond to Russia’s violations, including for research and development of a missile banned by the treaty. It would also have made it official U.S. policy that Russia is in violation and set the stage for Washington to suspend the treaty.

The Senate-passed version would have authorized $65 million for a research and development program on a ground-launched intermediate-range missile.

The compromise unveiled Wednesday would authorize $58 million to counter Russia’s violation of the treaty, including for research and development of a U.S. ground-launched cruise missile system. A Senate committee summary stresses that “would not place the United States in violation of the treaty,” while a House committee summary refers to the research and development program as “treaty compliant.”

The bill would also require the president to identify in a public document Russians involved in the treaty violation along with other senior Russian political and military leaders and to develop draft regulations to use as a basis for future sanctions legislation, according to the House summary.

Separate from the INF Treaty is the Open Skies Treaty, a 34-party treaty that allows signatories to fly unarmed surveillance flights over the entire territory of participants. The U.S. has accused Russia of also violating this treaty by denying over flight of some areas of the country.

The House-passed version of the bill would have denied funding for the treaty and for modernizing an Air Force drone used in a treaty-related flights. The Senate version was silent on the issue.

Like the House version, the final version would restrict spending on the treaty “to protect U.S. national security,” according to the House summary, and would impose new processes on over flights “as a result of Russian violation of this treaty.”


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