WASHINGTON – Pentagon and State Department officials are reviewing what military and economic options they can employ if Russia continues development of a cruise missile it has tested in violation of a cornerstone nuclear weapons treaty between Washington and Moscow, senior U.S. officials say.
"Russia's lack of meaningful engagement on this issue — if it persists — will ultimately require the United States to take actions to protect its interests and security along with those of its allies and partners," Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy told the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on strategic forces on Wednesday.
In July, the United States went public with its concerns that Russia violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile.
The document — signed in 1987 — bans American and Russian ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles capable of flying between 300 miles and 3,400 miles.
But American officials said the Russians tested a new medium-range, ground-launched cruise missile as early as 2008, and Russian officials have been unresponsive to attempts at dialogue by U.S. officials, most resently at a series of talks in September.
Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told the House panel that Russia was also not in compliance with the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, and U.S. officials are concerned that Moscow is also violating other arms treaties.
Since Russia has refused to acknowledge its INF treaty violation, Gottemoeller said that "we are reviewing a series of diplomatic, economic and military measures to protect the interests of the United States and our allies and encourage Russia to uphold its nuclear arms control commitments."
Echoing McKeon comments about plans being made at the Pentagon, Gottemoeller added that Washington is "assessing options in the military sphere to ensure that Russia would not gain a significant military advantage from its violation of the INF Treaty."
McKeon said the U.S. could deploy active defenses to counter cruise missiles and beef up U.S. and allied forces in Europe and Asia.
"We do not want to find ourselves engaged in an escalatory cycle of action and reaction," he insisted, adding that Russian action and U.S. and NATO counter-actions "will make Russia less secure ... . This violation will not go unanswered, because there is too much at stake." ■