The White House should immediately provide Congress with a Pentagon report assessing the risks to U.S. security posed by Russia’s violation of an intermediate-range missile treaty, according to Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas).
"I am deeply concerned that the Obama administration has been withholding information it is obligated to provide to Congress to protect what it considers to be the president’s ‘legacy achievements’—such as New START and the recent nuclear deal with Iran," Cruz, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Washington Free Beacon.
The senator, a Republican presidential candidate, wrote to President Obama on Friday requesting that he release a classified report produced by the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Martin Dempsey, on Moscow’s breach of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
"I request that you lift your embargo on this report immediately," he stated, asking for a response no later than Sept. 1.
The Free Beacon first reported Aug. 11 that the White House is blocking the report that is said to outline possible U.S. responses to the INF treaty violation.
The State Department publicly confirmed the treaty violation last year in an annual compliance report. Details of the violation have not been made public although U.S. officials say that it involves testing of a cruise missile called the R-500.
A ground-launched cruise missile version of Russia’s new SSN-30A long-range anti-ship missile is also said to violate the INF treaty, according to defense officials.
The treaty prohibits deploying or testing ballistic or cruise missiles with ranges between 310 miles and 3,418 miles. Its passage led to the withdrawal of then-Soviet SS-20, SS-4, and SS-5 missiles from Europe and the elimination of U.S. Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, first disclosed in a speech in July that the White House was holding up the INF report.
Rogers said that the report was produced after Obama directed the Joint Chiefs chairman to develop options in response to the INF breach. He called the report necessary for legislation to support steps to counter the treaty violation.
The Pentagon’s proposed options were provided to the president in December, Rogers said.
Administration officials have provided no details on the options being considered but have said that they include bolstering missile defenses and deploying new nuclear-capable missiles.
White House spokesman Myles Caggins declined to comment on the Aug. 21 letter from Cruz.
Earlier this month, a senior White House official said the United States is considering diplomatic, economic, and military responses to the INF treaty violation.
Joint Chiefs spokesman Greg Hicks said the assessment is secret and will not be released to the public. The Pentagon’s proposed actions regarding the Russian breach of the treaty include "preserving military response options—but no decision has been made with regard to the type of response, if any," Hicks said.
In his letter Cruz said that holding up the INF report is "withholding information from Congress pertinent to executing its constitutional statutory role in foreign affairs."
Cruz also said that despite the State Department declaring Moscow to be in violation of the accord, there have been concerns about Russian treaty compliance since 2008 that appear not to have been shared with the Senate during debate on the 2010 New START arms treaty.
"Only in late 2011, long after Congress voted on the New START treaty, did your administration conclude that the R-500 was an official compliance concern," Cruz stated.
The letter also noted that in 2011, then-Sen. John Kerry told a closed-door hearing that "we’re not going to pass another treaty in the U.S. Senate if our colleagues are sitting up here knowing somebody is cheating."
Cruz concluded: "The Senate’s advice and consent power is a pivotal element of a constitutional and prudent foreign policy, but it cannot be exercised if your administration does not act in good faith."
"Grave concerns of Russian compliance exist beyond the R-500 cruise missile, as Russia has potentially mislabeled intermediate missiles as intercontinental ballistic missiles, and fielded air defense systems that possess ground-to-ground ballistic capability," he added.
"If true, these would not only constitute clear violations of the INF treaty, but present a material threat to the United States and our allies."
Cruz said the risk assessment is needed in developing strategic responses by the United States.
In an email, Cruz noted that the administration similarly delayed release of the State Department’s annual report on Tehran’s human rights abuses in order to avoid upsetting negotiations with Iran on the nuclear deal.
That human rights report was only made public "once we threatened to cut [the State Department’s] budget," he said.
"Now the Defense Department is withholding a report that details disturbing Russian violations of the INF Treaty that could undermine the very premise of New START," Cruz said.
The administration was reluctant to admit that Moscow was not negotiating in good faith, "but the fact of the matter is the administration constrained America’s ability to deploy missile defense systems to protect our NATO allies and in return the Russians are blatantly testing the sorts of weapons that would threaten them," he noted.
"Congress, and the American people, deserve to know the truth about what turns out to be yet another terrible Obama administration deal with a hostile regime that means us harm," Cruz said of the Iranian nuclear accord, now under review by Congress.