The State Department’s annual report on arms control compliance failed to identify a major Russian treaty violation, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Monday.
"Both the unclassified and classified arms control compliance reports the administration recently submitted—almost three months late—have failed to address the concerns I raised with [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] Chairman [Mike] Rogers in our letters to the president," Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R., Calif.) said in a statement.
The chairman did not identify the treaty violation, but other U.S. officials said it involved a major breach of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty.
The Air Force National Space and Missile Intelligence Center reported recently within classified channels that Russia conducted a test launch of a new intermediate-range missile disguised as an intercontinental ballistic missile.
That flight test coincided with recent statements by senior Russian government officials that the INF treaty was hindering Moscow’s strategic forces buildup since China, in particular, has developed new INF-range missiles that pose a threat to Russia.
"Violating arms control treaties is a serious offense that jeopardizes past, current, and future agreements," McKeon added. "But instead of directly confronting this activity, the president threatens to veto legislation in Congress that would address Russian cheating and insist that current treaties work as designed."
McKeon said the administration’s failure to respond to Russian arms accord violations "undermines the entire arms control process, our credibility, and national security."
"The American people and our allies—in Europe and elsewhere—deserve better," he said.
The Russian INF treaty violation was first reported by the Free Beacon June 25.
The annual State Department report, posted Friday on the department's web site, stated that the last time U.S. and Russian officials met to discuss INF treaty compliance was 2003.
"There were no issues raised during this reporting period," the report said.
The reporting period for the report was Jan. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2012.
Paula A. DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation during the George W. Bush administration, said the latest compliance report is disappointing.
"Among other failures is the absence of any analysis of possible Russian INF Treaty violations and the failure to assess whether Syrian chemical weapon use violates the 1925 Geneva Protocol which bans the use in war of ‘asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices,’" DeSutter said in an email.
"Such important noncompliance questions should be addressed, and, if necessary, the reporting period can be modified for such critical issues," she added. "Congress should employ the many tools at their disposal to demand more rigor from the administration, and the Department of State in particular. I certainly would never have expected to get away with such a shoddy job."
The first indications of a possible INF violation were raised by Rep. Michael R. Turner (R., Ohio), then-chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, in a June 2012 letter to senior Obama administration national security officials. Turner questioned whether Russian strategic missile tests, including one in May 2012, were carried out in violation of the INF treaty.
Then last month intelligence officials at the NASIC concluded that Russia’s new Yars M missile was an INF missile with a range of less than 5,500 kilometers—the range covered by the INF treaty.
One intelligence official said the intelligence community concluded that a June 6 flight test was a new intermediate-range missile that Moscow classified as an ICBM to avoid being charged by the United States with a treaty violation.
Article VI of the INF treaty states that neither party shall "produce or flight-test any intermediate-range missiles or produce any stages of such missiles or any launchers of such missiles."
Turner, in his letter, asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if Russia was working on missiles "in configurations that violate the INF treaty."
James N. Miller, undersecretary of defense for policy, did not respond directly to Turner, instead stating in an Aug. 3, 2012, letter that Russia’s 2010 ICBM tests were not restricted by the INF treaty terms.
However, Miller said, the United States was continuing to monitor INF compliance "very closely" and "further information on the matters you raised will be available in the forthcoming Annual Compliance Report."
Retired Lt. Gen. Victor Yesin, a former commander of Russian strategic forces and current consultant to the chief of the general staff, told the Free Beacon last month that the Yars M did not violate the INF treaty because it is an ICBM.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said June 19 that Russia would not "accept a situation that would put the strategic deterrent system out of balance and make our nuclear forces less effective." He also said that abiding by the INF treaty "can’t last endlessly" because Russia’s neighbors were building INF missiles, a reference to China, which has several intermediate-range missile systems.
McKeon and Rogers in April wrote to President Barack Obama describing "a massive Russian violation and circumvention of an arms control obligation to the United States of great significance to this nation and its NATO allies."
"Briefings provided by your administration have agreed with our assessment that Russian actions are serious and troubling, but have failed to offer any assurance of any concrete action to address these Russian actions," the two chairmen stated in the April 12 letter.
Both lawmakers said in the letter that they expected the compliance report would "directly confront the Russian violations and circumventions."
Two months earlier, McKeon and Rogers said in another letter that "it is clear that the Russian Federation is undertaking both systemic violation and circumvention of a significant arms control obligation to the United States."
"Such is the reality that confronts the United States, despite four years of your best efforts to ‘reset’ relations with that country," they said.
Intelligence confirmation of the INF violation is unwelcome news for the administration. President Obama said in a recent speech in Berlin that he would seek a new round of strategic nuclear arms cuts with Russia as part of his plan to further reduce nuclear stockpiles. The president said he plans to cut U.S. nuclear forces to as few as 1,000 deployed warheads, from the 2010 New START warhead target of 1,550 warheads.
House Republicans are opposing further U.S. nuclear cuts until Russia is confronted over the treaty violations and the violations are corrected. A provision of the 2014 defense authorization bill would prohibit the use of any defense funds to make strategic arms if Russia is violating arms treaty obligations.
Alexandra Bell, spokeswoman for Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller, declined to comment on statements by McKeon and other members of Congress on Russian treaty violations.
As for recent statements by Russian officials discussing withdrawl from the INF accord, Bell said: "Russia is a party to the INF Treaty and has not notified the United States of any intent to withdraw."
The INF treaty banned all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 1,000 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers, or 620 miles and 3,418 miles.
Under the treaty, the United States eliminated nuclear-tipped Pershing ballistic and Ground-Launched Cruise missiles in Europe, while Moscow agreed to eliminated SS-20, SS-12, SS-23, SS-4, and SSC-X-4 missiles.
According to Russian press reports, Russia recently displayed a new mobile missile launcher that experts say appears to designed for a new INF missile.
After the Free Beacon report on the INF violation was published, Russian press reports sought to explain the June 6 missile test as perhaps a test launch of a Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile.
If a Bulava was fired from a mobile launcher, it would violate the New START prohibition on using submarine missiles outside of submarine launchers.
New START states that submarine-launched ballistic missiles shall be installed only on ballistic missile submarines.