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

A group of 26 Senate Democrats is urging President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push 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 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Biden says Congress must move to protect abortion rights Harris seeks Iowa edge with army of volunteers MORE (D-Mass.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGOP faces new challenge in 2020 abortion fight 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Biden says Congress must move to protect abortion rights MORE (D-N.Y.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: EPA watchdog finds Pruitt spent 4K on 'excessive' travel | Agency defends Pruitt expenses | Lawmakers push EPA to recover money | Inslee proposes spending T for green jobs Dems request investigation of lobbyist-turned-EPA employee who met with former boss This week: House to vote on bill to ban LGBTQ discrimination MORE (D-Ore.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyGOP senator announces bill to block companies from tracking online activity Trump faces criticism for hosting Hungary's leader Bill Nye tees off on climate change skeptics: 'The planet is on f---ing fire!' MORE (D-Mass.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThis week: Democrats, White House set for infrastructure, budget talks Senate confirms Rosen for No. 2 spot at DOJ Senate confirms controversial 9th Circuit pick without blue slips MORE (D-Calif.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHarris seeks Iowa edge with army of volunteers GOP senators split over antitrust remedies for big tech Fox's Brit Hume fires back at Trump's criticism of the channel 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.