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

A group of 26 Senate Democrats is urging President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech 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 WarrenTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Buttigieg says he doubts consulting work for insurer led to layoffs Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles MORE (D-Mass.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandBombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Gabbard calls for congressional inquiry over Afghanistan war report Overnight Defense: Bombshell report reveals officials misled public over progress in Afghanistan | Amazon accuses Trump of 'improper pressure' in Pentagon contract decision | House Judiciary holds final impeachment hearing MORE (D-N.Y.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyMcConnell says he's 'honored' to be WholeFoods Magazine's 2019 'Person of the Year' Overnight Energy: Protesters plan Black Friday climate strike | 'Father of EPA' dies | Democrats push EPA to abandon methane rollback Warren bill would revoke Medals of Honor for Wounded Knee massacre MORE (D-Ore.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyWarren proposes 'Blue New Deal' to protect oceans There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Trump administration drops plan to face scan all travelers leaving or entering US MORE (D-Mass.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence MORE (D-Calif.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Biden narrowly ahead in Iowa as Sanders surges, Warren drops: poll Overnight Defense: Dems unveil impeachment articles against Trump | Saudi military flight students grounded after shooting | Defense bill takes heat from progressives | Pentagon watchdog to probe use of personnel on border MORE (D-Minn.).

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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.”

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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.