Russia has violated a 1987 arms control treaty by deploying a fully operational cruise missile, despite prior warnings from the White House, U.S. officials have determined.
Moscow initially tested the missile in 2014 and subsequently received a letter from then-President Barack Obama, which stated that launching the missile would violate the landmark treaty that marked an end to the Cold War, reports The New York Times.
"The United States has determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the I.N.F. treaty not to possess, produce or flight test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles," said a 2014 report of the missile testing at the time, according to the Times.
Russia's move presents a challenge for President Donald Trump and his new administration, considering many top State Department and Pentagon positions remain vacant and especially after national security adviser retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn stepped down Feb. 13 amid allegations he had covered up conversations that he had with a Russian ambassador.
At around the same time officials learned of the prohibited missile deployments, a Russian spy ship was seen patrolling near the U.S. East Coast, notes Fox News. The ship's destination and motives are unclear, although it has the capability to intercept communication signals and to measure U.S. Navy sonar capacities.
"It's not a huge concern, but we are keeping our eyes on it," an official said of the ship, according to Fox News.
Russia's missile launch could spell trouble for neighboring NATO nations, who may now decide to increase their own defense systems, according to the Times. If this happens, NATO allies may call on the U.S. for aid.
"A weapon capability that violates the I.N.F., that is introduced into the greater European land mass, is absolutely a tool that will have to be dealt with," former top NATO commander Gen. Philip Breedlove in April 2016. "It can't go unanswered."