According to Gen. Paul Selva, who sits on the Joint Chiefs of Staff as vice chairman, Russia has deployed a cruise missile barred by an arms agreement between Washington and Moscow. According to U.S. intelligence, Russia moved the missile from a test site to one of their active military bases in December.
“We believe that the Russians have deployed a land-based cruise missile that violates the spirit and intent of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty,” Selva said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. “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.”
From the NY Times:
The treaty Russia is accused of violating bans the testing, production and possession of American and Russian intermediate-range missiles based on land. Commonly called the I.N.F. treaty, it was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, and is regarded as one of the cornerstones of arms control.
While the recent move represents a new stage in Russia’s defiance of the agreement, the signs of their non-compliance were there when President Obama was in office. The Obama White House began in 2013 to pressure Moscow to come back into alignment with the pact, even as the Russian government was testing the missile’s viability. Those talks were not fruitful, however, and the Kremlin denies to this day that reports of the missile’s existence are true.
What is increasingly clear is that Vladimir Putin does not intend to be held in check by international agreements or norms. That doesn’t mean that President Trump needs to “break bad” and start ramping up our military efforts in Europe and the Baltics, but it does mean that we need to keep a very close eye on Russian aggression.
Unfortunately, we must also separate fact from fiction in an age where Republicans, Democrats, and the U.S. intelligence community are all pointing at each other and yelling, “Fake news!” And since so much of this news – fake or not – seems to involve Russia in some way, we have to be careful about reading too much into any one puzzle piece.