The Russians have reneged on a historic arms control treaty signed between the United States and Russia, an Air Force General said yesterday.
The treaty, the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, was a critical aspect in ending the Cold War. It explicitly bans the testing, production, and possession of intermediate-range missiles fired from land-based systems, whether they are armed with a nuclear warhead or not.
General Paul Selva, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday, saying “The system itself presents a risk to most of our facilities in Europe and we believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility.”
General Selva did not say if the missiles included nuclear warheads.
The United States has been complaining of Russian violations of the treaty with this missile system since 2013. The Russians have shrugged off the accusations by the United States as untrue.
General Selva does not believe the Russians have any intention of returning to compliance with the treaty.
Tensions in Europe have been high in the past few years as the United States and NATO allies begin to reorient forces in response to what they describe as an increasingly aggressive Russia.
Last year, the United States deployed a controversial missile defense system in Romania, which was blasted by Russia as an “attempt to destroy the strategic balance” of deterrence in Europe. The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System is designed to intercept short to intermediate range missiles, which the United States and NATO insisted was only intended to prevent Iran from launching missiles into Europe. Russia unsurprisingly denied claims that Iran posed a threat.
It’s likely the Russians, emboldened by their successful operations in the Crimean Peninsula and eastern Ukraine, are moving ahead with plans that will place them back on a more even footing with NATO and the U.S.
President Trump has said that the missile subject is important to him, and that he would address the issue with Vladimir Putin “if and when we meet.”