Senate Dems urge Trump to continue nuclear arms control negotiations after treaty suspension

A group of 26 Senate Democrats is urging President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ MORE to continue arms control negotiations following the administration's threat last week to pull out of a landmark arms control treaty with Russia.

“We write out of deep concern that your administration is now abandoning generations of bipartisan U.S. leadership around the paired goals of reducing the global role and number of nuclear weapons and ensuring strategic stability with America's nuclear-armed adversaries," the lawmakers wrote to Trump in a letter delivered on Wednesday.

The letter was organized by Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann Warren2020 Democrats barnstorm the country for MLK weekend Kamala Harris picks Baltimore as headquarters for potential 2020 campaign: report Dem voters split on importance of women atop the ticket in 2020 MORE (D-Mass.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Ocasio-Cortez speaks about 'justice' at Women's March 2020 Democrats barnstorm the country for MLK weekend MORE (D-N.Y.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDem senator requests FBI investigate Nielsen for potential perjury Trump officials discussed ‘deterrent effect’ of prosecuting migrant parents: report Senate Democrats hold talkathon to protest partial shutdown MORE (D-Ore.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDems blast EPA nominee at confirmation hearing Overnight Energy: Watchdog investigating EPA enforcement numbers | EPA's Wheeler faces Senate grilling | Interior's offshore drilling staff returning to work during shutdown EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (D-Mass.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president The Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress Feinstein grappling with vote on AG nominee Barr MORE (D-Calif.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharCNN analyst Phil Mudd: Barr will ‘crush’ Trump administration 5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony Klobuchar dismisses mock campaign logo as something from 'very enthusiastic supporter' MORE (D-Minn.).

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last week that the Trump administration would suspend its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 60 days if Russia did not fall back in line with the pact. Signed in 1987, the nuclear arms agreement is meant to keep Russia and the U.S. from developing and testing any land-based cruise missiles with a range between 310 and 3,410 miles.

NATO ministers have agreed unanimously that Moscow was in violation of the treaty, while Russia denies it is in violation of the pact.

In response to the 60-day suspension, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Russia would begin to develop the disputed nuclear weapons if the U.S. withdraws.

“To put us on a safer path, we urge you to redouble diplomatic efforts to preserve the [INF Treaty] rather than simply terminating it,” the letter states.

The lawmakers add that the United States should address Russia’s violation of the treaty “by vigorously exploring a diplomatic resolution in close concert with our allies,” as the country “still lacks a comprehensive strategy to address the security threats that would result from a collapse of the INF Treaty.”

The senators also call for an extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, set to expire in February 2021. That treaty, which caps the number of deployed nuclear warheads for each country, has the option for a five-year extension.

Abandoning New START “would free Russia to expand its capacity to directly threaten the entire U.S. homeland,” the lawmakers warn.

In addition, the group expresses concern about the administration's continued development of low-yield nuclear weapons.

“Your administration's efforts to double down on new, unnecessary nuclear weapons while scrapping mutually beneficial treaties risks the United States sliding into another arms race with Russia and erodes U.S. nonproliferation efforts around the world,” they write.

The Trump administration’s threat to pull out of INF is one of several recent developments that have peaked U.S.-Russia tension in recent weeks.

Washington has also called out Moscow for its actions against Ukraine near the Sea of Azov. Russia fired on Ukrainian ships as they tried to transit the Kerch Strait, which links the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea. Several crew members were injured, and Russia seized three ships and detained the sailors on board.