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U.S. Plans to Counter Arms Breach by Russia

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Image 0Frustrated by Russia's refusal to address the Obama administration's concerns that it has violated a landmark arms control accord, the Pentagon is moving ahead with plans to strengthen defenses in Europe against Moscow's military programs, including the threat posed by cruise missiles, a senior Defense Department official told Congress on Tuesday.

But the Pentagon's assurance did not satisfy Republican lawmakers, who said that the administration had made no headway in persuading the Russians to rectify the violation.

At issue is the 1987 treaty banning intermediate-range missiles based on land, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev, then the Soviet leader, and has long been viewed as one of the agreements that sealed the end of the Cold War.

The Obama administration charged in July 2014 that the Russians had violated the treaty, popularly known as the INF accord, by developing and testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile.

Repeated attempts to persuade the Kremlin to resolve the issue have failed. Rose Gottemoeller, the senior State Department official for arms control, told a joint meeting of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees that Russian officials had never acknowledged developing the prohibited system and instead had focused on leveling “counteraccusations," which she dismissed as spurious.

The Obama administration has said that the missile has yet to be deployed, but Brian P. McKeon, a senior policy official at the Defense Department who appeared with Ms. Gottemoeller, described the violation as a serious one.

“We are talking about a real system and not a potential capability," Mr. McKeon said, adding that a classified assessment by the Pentagon's Joint Staff had concluded that the deployment of the system would increase the risk to allies in Europe and Asia and also “pose an indirect threat to the United States."

When he spoke to Congress a year ago, Mr. McKeon said that the Pentagon had developed a range of military options to pressure Russia to correct its violation. Ms. Gottemoeller also said at the time that the Obama administration was considering “economic measures" to put pressure on Russia to fix the violation, though she did not say what they were.

But on Tuesday, Mr. McKeon said that the administration was now taking a somewhat different approach that would incorporate some options into a more “comprehensive" response to Russia's more aggressive military posture in Europe.

“Our core objective remains the same: to ensure that Russia does not obtain a significant military advantage from its INF violation," Mr. McKeon said. “As we consider the changed strategic environment in Europe, we are factoring Russia's increased cruise missile capabilities, including its INF violation, into our planning."

The comprehensive response Mr. McKeon pointed to, however, contains only a few specifics and appeared to include increased spending that was already underway for some military programs in Europe as well as programs that the Pentagon would like to include in future budget proposals.

It remains unclear what specific new capabilities the Pentagon planned to field and when, and which programs it might cancel if the Russians eventually came into compliance with the accord.

A senior official, who declined to be identified because he was talking about the administration's discussions, said the full scope of the plan would become clear once internal budget deliberations were completed.

Representative Mike D. Rogers, the Alabama Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee, complained that the administration had not announced any specific actions in response to the alleged Russia violation.

“This is a longstanding violation," Mr. Rogers said. “It should not be blended in."

The dominant sentiment among the lawmakers appeared to be expressed by Representative Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, who was frustrated that no headway had been made in drawing the Russians into a serious discussion about the violation.

“It seems like it is 'Groundhog Day,' " he said.


December 2 2015, 16:14

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