The United States is considering the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in response to Russia’s alleged violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a senior American official told Sputnik News Wednesday. Earlier this month, two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near an American guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea, according to U.S. officials.
The 1987 INF Treaty between the two countries forbids the use or development of ground-launched cruise missiles within the range of 300 miles to 3,400 miles. In 2014 and 2015, the U.S. State Department said that Russia violated the treaty and provided Congress with a classified report that had possible responses to the violations. Moscow had dismissed the allegations.
“Russia has violated the INF Treaty,” Congressman John Garamendi told Sputnik. “Now that they have, we are preparing a defensive mechanism and there is talk of America building intermediate range missiles.”
“What the Committee is concerned about is that Russia has violated the INF, so what are the countermeasures, how we defend [ourselves], and secondly do we have our own,” Garamendi said, adding that “Russia has managed to set off a new arms race.”
A proposal, outlining the countermeasures, was expected to be addressed later Wednesday during the House Armed Services Committee estimate of the 2017 defense spending bill. If the committee agrees on the countermeasures to Russia’s alleged violations, the Defense Department would be directed to examine the benefits of U.S. conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles, the report said.
Meanwhile, after the Russian warplanes reportedly buzzed the American navy destroyer USS Donald Cook, the White House issued a formal protest to Moscow.
“We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight maneuvers,” the U.S. military’s European Command said in a statement. “These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries and could result in a miscalculation.”
However, Russian authorities in turn said they were surprised by the U.S. reaction, insisting that the planes were carrying out normal maneuvers. The Russian jets were conducting test flights and moved out of the U.S. ship’s airspace in a timely manner, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement posted to the ministry’s Facebook page.
Relations between Washington and Moscow have soured after the Crimean annexation in March 2014. An ongoing civil war in Syria brought the two rivals together, but they have maintained disagreement over the future of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is backed by the Kremlin.