Washington Monday accused Russia of violating the 1987 nuclear missile treaty by test-firing a new cruise missile. President Obama sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin seeking talks to preserve the treaty, the New York Times reported.
The 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed by then-President Ronald Reagan and Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, bans ground-based medium-range missiles that can fly 300 to 3,400 miles. The Times said the U.S. has been concerned about Russian treaty compliance since 2011.
“The United States has 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 with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” a State Department report is expected to say.
Obama's letter was delivered by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the issue in a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Sunday, the Times said.
Top NATO commander Gen. Philip Breedlove said a response will be necessary if the issue is not resolved.
Russia suggested during the George W. Bush administration the treaty should be dropped so it could augment its defenses against such rivals as China and Pakistan. Putin in June 2013 called the decision to sign the treaty "debatable" at best.
Former Bush administration official Stephen Rademaker said the United States should not say it would pull out of the treaty in retaliation because Moscow would welcome such a move. Rademaker told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month that the U.S. "shouldn't make it any easier for them."
The Associated Press reported the United States appears to be raising the issue now to further pressure Russia, which is increasingly isolated as a result of its machinations in Ukraine.