The United States’ top intelligence official has quietly revealed key new details about Russia’s alleged violations of a bedrock Cold War nuclear treaty, an unexpected move that comes as U.S. officials push to build new support from European allies.
Congress, meanwhile, is gearing up for a new fight over U.S. arms-control policy, even as President Donald Trump’s administration intends to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and has signaled lukewarm support for another even bigger nuclear treaty.
Taken together, the developments mark a new phase in the fight between Moscow and Washington over the fate of their two nuclear arsenals, and highlight fears that the two countries are sliding into a new arms race.
Beginning in 2014, the United States publicly accused Russia of violating the INF, which eliminated, among other things, an entire class of intermediate-range missiles.
In a statement published November 30, Dan Coats, the U.S. director of national intelligence, for the first time revealed significantly more evidence from U.S. intelligence about the type of missile Russia tested and how it was tested. Coats said the Russia tested the missile from a fixed launcher and then a mobile launcher — one within the range banned by the INF treaty.
“By putting the two types of tests together, Russia was able to develop a missile that flies to the intermediate ranges prohibited by the INF Treaty and launches from a ground-mobile platform,” Coats said.
”It’s a big deal,” says Thomas Moore, a former staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and longtime arms-control specialist who worked on multiple treaties. “Those are the relevant details you would need to say, ‘Yes, they have violated the INF.'”
It wasn’t clear why exactly Coats had decided to reveal more specific evidence now. The State Department did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis echoed the tough rhetoric toward Moscow, saying the Kremlin had undermined trust on the issue of missile treaties.
“We are dealing with someone that we simply cannot trust,” Mattis said during a speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California. “There is no doubt the relationship has worsened.