President Barack Obama formally notified Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday that the U.S. has concluded Russia violated a nuclear test ban treaty.
The New York Times reports that a letter, sent by Obama from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, notified Putin that the U.S. believes Russia’s testing of ground-based cruise missiles violates a 1987 treaty signed by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
That treaty, known as the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty, bans missiles with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles. The treaty is regarded by many as the linchpin in arms control efforts between the two countries.
One administration official told Fox News that the U.S. is prepared to engage in “senior-level bilateral dialogue immediately” with Russia over the issue.
“The United States is committed to the viability of the INF Treaty,” the official said. “We encourage Russia to return to compliance with its obligations under the treaty and to eliminate any prohibited items in a verifiable manner.”
Russia reportedly began testing the missiles in 2008. The tests were flagged as a possible violation of the historic treaty in 2011.
NBC News reports U.S. officials have said the specific violation of the treaty dates back no further than 2013.
The determination was made recently by the administration’s most senior advisors who reportedly agreed unanimously that Russia violated the treaty. The State Department is scheduled to reveal the details of the accusation Tuesday in its annual report on arms control agreements.
Secretary of State John Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov Sunday to notify him of the coming report.
The allegations come at a time when tensions between the U.S. and Russia are already strained. Obama and Putin have been at odds over Russia’s intervention in the crisis in Ukraine and over Putin’s decision to grant asylum to National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.
But Obama’s decision to act now on the possible treaty violations may garner him some support among Republicans in Congress. GOP members on the House Armed Services Committee have known about the treaty violations for more than year and have been calling on the president to take a tougher stand.
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