Republicans in the House and Senate introduced identical resolutions March 25 calling on President Barack Obama to hold Russia accountable for “being in material breach of its obligations” under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), David Vitter (R-La.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced the Senate resolution. Reps. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), Ted Poe (R-Tex.), and Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) introduced the bill in the House.
The resolutions come in response to what Republican lawmakers say was the Obama administration’s weak action in following up on U.S. suspicions that Moscow has tested cruise missiles banned by the INF Treaty. The accord prohibits the United States and Russia from testing or fielding ballistic or cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The Obama administration confirmed these concerns in January, but has not publicly concluded that a violation has taken place. (See ACT, March 2014.)
The possibility of the treaty violation has been an issue in the confirmation process for some Obama administration nominees (see).
In light of Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, “Russian cheating cannot be interpreted in anything but the most sinister terms,” Rubio and the House members said in a March 25 press release. “Cheating is not a separate issue, but is rather recognized as an equal part of [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin’s long-term plan for a resurgent Russia.”
The resolutions call on Obama to demand that Russia “completely and verifiably eliminate” the missiles in question, not to reduce U.S. nuclear forces further or engage in arms control negotiations with Russia until this elimination has occurred, and to consider whether the United States should remain a party to the INF Treaty if Moscow is still in violation a year from now. The United States and Russia are currently reducing their nuclear forces under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and Obama had been proposing an additional round of negotiated arsenal cuts.
“We have introduced this resolution because the viability of future arms control agreements depends on the reliability of current ones,” Rubio and his colleagues said. “There is simply no point in having treaties unless both sides treat them with the utmost fidelity, and act in a manner binding to the agreement.”