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Defense bill wouldn't limit extension of arms treaty with Russia

Defense bill wouldn't limit extension of arms treaty with Russia

The final version of an annual defense policy bill wouldn't limit the extension of an arms control treaty with Russia, but would require a plan to respond to any violations of the treaty.

“While the Russian Federation appears to be moving toward compliance with the limits laid out by the New START Treaty, the Russian Federation cannot be allowed to comply only with treaties that suit its interests and violate those that do not,” House and Senate negotiators wrote in a conference report released Thursday. “Treaties are not negotiated and ratified independently but in the context of the range of arms control agreements in force.”

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's due for extension in 2021.

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President Trump has dismissed the treaty as one of former President Obama’s “bad deals,” calling it “a one-sided deal.”

The House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would have banned funds from being used to extend the New START treaty unless the president certifies that Russia is in compliance with a separate arms treaty, known as the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

The INF Treaty is a landmark 1987 deal between Russia and the United States that bans ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The United States has accused Russia of violating the deal multiple times, including by deploying a nuclear-tipped cruise missile.

The NDAA would address Russia’s violations of the INF Treaty by authorizing $58 million to respond to the violations, including with research and development of a U.S. ground-launched cruise missile system.

But the ban on funding to extend New START was taken out.

A separate provision that was also in the House-passed bill was retained. That provision would require the president to give Congress a plan to address any potential failure of Russia to comply with the treaty by the 2018 deadline, including a look at potential sanctions, diplomacy or redeployment of U.S. nuclear forces beyond New START levels.

The NDAA conference report said that negotiators remain “frustrated” with Russia’s violations of the INF Treaty.

“As the expiration date of the New START Treaty approaches,” the report said, “the conferees urge the president and the members of the National Security Council to carefully consider whether extending the treaty, if Russia is still in violation of the INF Treaty, is in the national interest of the United States.”