On Wednesday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva confirmed to the House Armed Services Committee that Russia has deployed a cruise missile banned under the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.
More specifically, General Selva said the deployment of ground-launched SSC-8 cruise missiles violates the “spirit and intent” of the INF treaty, which dates back to 1987 and is considered a vital achievement in arms control negotiations.
“The system itself presents a risk to most of our facilities in Europe, and we believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility,” Selva told the House Armed Services Committee.
“While senior Trump administration officials have not said where the new unit is based, there has been speculation in media reports that a missile system with similar characteristics is deployed in central Russia. The Times also noted that a second battalion was staged at a missile test range at Kapustin Yar, in southern Russia near Volgograd,” reports the New York Times.
This marks the first official confirmation of Russia’s cruise missile violation. The New York Times wrote a story about the deployment last month, which the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed as “fake news.”
Reuters quotes Selva saying the Joint Chiefs have been asked to “incorporate a set of options into the nuclear posture review.” President Trump has also stated he would discuss the interview directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin if a meeting between them takes place.
“I don’t have enough information on their intent to conclude other than they do not intend to return to compliance,” Selva added.
Reuters notes prior history suggests the Russians are likely to deny allegations they violated the treaty and leave the missiles where they are, as occurred during a similar situation in 2014. They will likely calculate that the American aversion to a new arms race is strong enough to let a few Russian infractions slide.
Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry (R-TX), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, sounded ready to call that bluff on Wednesday.
“We see what the Russians are doing; they’re not going to stand down out of the goodness of their heart, and so some sort of strong action is important,” he said shortly after Selva’s testimony, as reported by Military.com.
“You’re not going to get rid of a Russian capability by not having a capability of your own,” he added.
Thornberry said he was prepared to “let lawyers consider a legal status of a treaty in which the Russians are in clear violation of.” While those lawyers decide if Russia has effectively abrogated the treaty, Thornberry said he would support faster deployment of long-range U.S. weapons, including the B61 nuclear bomb and LRSO cruise missile.