9:46 pm - Friday November 6, 2015

Russia violated missile treaty: U.S.

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U.S. President Barack Obama said in a letter to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a letter on Monday that Russia had violated a 1987 arms control treaty when it allegedly ground-launched a cruise missile, a move that will heighten simmering tensions between Washington and Moscow over the Ukraine crisis and Russia granting asylum to fugitive National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Obama administration’s charge against Russia, described as the “most serious allegation of an arms control treaty violation,” made to date, follows reports by U.S. officials that Russia began testing cruise missiles as far back as 2008 and last May Rose Gottemoeller, a top U.S. arms control official, “first raised the possibility of a violation with Russian officials.”

Although there did not appear to be clarity surrounding the actual date of the alleged missile launch, the New York Times reported that in January this year U.S. officials informed NATO allies about the incident and Washington’s belief that a violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty had occurred.

In what appeared to be a leaked report excerpt published by the Times, U.S. officials were quoted saying they had “determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the INF treaty not to possess, produce or flight test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometres to 5,500 kilometres or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”

The newspaper reported that this allegation “will be made public soon in the State Department’s annual report on international compliance with arms control agreements.”

The INF Treaty was signed on December 8, 1987 by erstwhile U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and was considered to be an agreement that would limit the risk of strikes against Europe.

This risk increased after the Soviet Union achieved “rough strategic parity” with the U.S. in the mid-1970s and then began replacing older intermediate-range SS-4 and SS-5 missiles with a new intermediate-range missile, the SS-20, “bringing about what was perceived as a qualitative and quantitative change in the European security situation,” according to the State Department.

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