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Pentagon Confirms Russia Violated Nuclear Arms Treaty

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Pentagon Confirms Russia Violated Nuclear Arms Treaty

National Security

Pentagon Confirms Russia Violated Nuclear Arms Treaty

Pentagon Confirms Russia Violated Nuclear Arms Treaty

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After weeks of reports that Russia is violating a nuclear arms treaty with the U.S., the Pentagon says that is indeed the case. Top nuclear arms officials are telling Congress that Moscow is deploying prohibited intermediate range nuclear weapons that could be used to attack Europe. It's another nuclear headache for a new administration also grappling with defiant nuclear weapons moves by North Korea.

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The Trump administration is also being put to the test by potential atomic adversaries. Earlier this week, North Korea defiantly launched four missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Now a top military officer is telling Congress that Russia has deployed missiles banned under a longstanding treaty with the U.S. NPR's David Welna has the story.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Moscow and Washington agreed to eliminate all their land-based nuclear missiles that could hit targets within 3,400 miles. But there have been growing reports in recent years that Russia was developing a new intermediate-range cruise missile in violation of that treaty. So at a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, Massachusetts Democrat Seth Moulton asked General Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, what the Russians were up to.

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SETH MOULTON: There have been some concerns expressed in the press that they are not being compliant. I'd like to know what your view is on that situation.

PAUL SELVA: We believe that the Russians have deployed - pardon me - a land-based cruise missile that violates the spirit and intent of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.

WELNA: It was the first official assertion that a Russian missile known to have been tested for years was now fully operational, and Selva said that could have serious security implications.

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SELVA: 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.

WELNA: Selva said the U.S. had verbally confronted Russian officials about the deployment and would continue to do so, but Moulton wanted to know what more could be done.

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MOULTON: What is the next step? What is the administration's plan to deal with what seems like a flagrant violation of a treaty?

WELNA: Selva demurred. All that, he said, would be laid out in the Nuclear Posture Review that the Trump administration has requested.

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SELVA: So it would be premature for me to comment on what the potential options might be for the administration to respond.

WELNA: It wasn't just Democrats pressing for answers on Russia's defiance. Mike Rogers is an Alabama Republican.

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MIKE ROGERS: General Selva, in your professional military view, do you believe that Russia intends to return to compliance with this treaty?

SELVA: Congressman, I don't have enough information on their intent to conclude other than that they do not intend to return to compliance absent some pressure from the international community and the United States as a cosigner of the same agreement.

WELNA: Hours later, Harvard nuclear arms expert Gary Samore told a Senate hearing that Russia could do the same with the INF treaty that the U.S. did with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

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GARY SAMORE: But in typical Russian fashion, instead of doing the above-board thing, which is to withdraw from the treaty just like we withdrawed (ph) from the ABM Treaty, the Russians do it by cheating and denial. And that's the practice we've seen.

WELNA: Still unclear is how President Trump, and admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, might respond to Moscow's defiance. David Welna, NPR News, Washington.

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