A leading U.S. lawmaker on defense issues said Washington should formally protest Moscow's suspected violation of an arms control pact.
"I think that we should hold them accountable" for breaking the terms of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, said Representative Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the outgoing chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "They should know they are going to be held accountable."
The Obama administration has told its NATO allies that it is concerned about a seeming Russian contravention of the bilateral agreement, which prohibits the United States and Russia from developing, testing or possessing any ballistic or cruise missile with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles. However, the U.S. government to date has refrained from making a formal accusation of a treaty violation.
Washington reportedly is concerned about the Russian military's trial launches of an unspecified, new ground-fired cruise missile in recent years.
Speaking on the sidelines of a luncheon at the National Press Club, McKeon told Global Security Newswire that the United States should declare Moscow in material breach of the INF accord, regardless of concerns that doing so could prompt the Kremlin to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty.
"Why not? If we're worried of the ramifications of accusing them of something we feel strongly that they've done, then why have a treaty?" he said. "If you have a treaty and you violate it then why would you start to talk about another treaty or expanding a treaty?"
Russia in recent years has hinted it could pull out of the nuclear agreement as a response to evolving intermediate-range missile threats in its region.
At the same time, the Obama administration has made known its desire to initiate bilateral arms-control talks with Russia on a new treaty that would reduce each of the two former Cold War rivals' arsenals of deployed long-range nuclear weapons to approximately 1,000 warheads.