Several senior House Republicans are calling on the White House to penalize Russia over its alleged violations of a nuclear-related arms control accord.
The Obama administration recently admitted to having concerns about Moscow's compliance with the bilateral 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. However, the government to date has not formally accused Russia of being in breach of the agreement.
In a Thursday letter, a trio of GOP committee heads urged President Obama to take unspecified action on the matter, warning that failing to do so "would only invite further violations by Russia."
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from producing, testing or possessing cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles. The Russian military's reported testing of a new ground-based cruise missile since roughly 2008 is believed to be the source of U.S. concern, though the specific weapon and its capabilities are not yet publicly known.
"We believe it is imperative that Russian officials not be permitted to believe they stand to gain from a material breach of this or any other treaty," said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.).
The lawmakers said the timing of the alleged treaty violations is important, given the United States and other world powers' ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
"Other countries around the world will be closely watching the U.S. response to any Russian violation," they said.
Asked to respond to the Republican letter, a White House official on Friday told Global Security Newswire: "We have concerns about Russian compliance with the treaty. We have raised them with Russia and are pressing for clear answers in an effort to resolve our concerns."
The official asked not to be named in this article, citing the sensitivity of the matter.
NATO has been updated about the U.S. concerns, the official said, adding, "We're not going to drop the issue until our concerns have been addressed."
Moscow multiple times previously has hinted it could withdraw from the 1987 accord, evidently because of potential threats that lie within range of what the treaty covers. A number of countries in Russia's region of the world have nuclear weapons, including China, or are on the verge of acquiring them, such as North Korea.
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