- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2014

U.S. State Department officials say Russia has repeatedly violated the terms of a treaty forged by former President Ronald Reagan and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev by conducting numerous flight tests of a cruise missile — but the White House is so far reluctant to take up the charges and address them with President Vladimir Putin directly.

U.S. military officials warned NATO allies in recent weeks that Russia has been testing its latest ground-launched missile, in apparent violation of the 1987 arms control agreement, The New York Times reported. The treaty has long been seen as the main reason the two nations dropped a Cold War mentality.

But now senior State Department officials — like Rose Gottemoeller, the agency’s senior arms control figure — are worried the terms of the treaty are being repeatedly violated, and have tried to broach the issue with Russian counterparts, but to no avail. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is failing to take action, The Times reported.

Specifically, the White House won’t officially declare Russia’s missile tests a violation of the treaty. Several sources speaking on condition of anonymity to The Times say the president’s stance is a bit of a puzzler, given the tests are clear violations. Some in Congress feel similarly, and have pushed the White House to take a stronger role in bringing the matter to Russia’s attention.

President Obama has stated on several occasions that reduction in arms is one of his key policies. Some analysts think that he’s trying to tread lightly with the Russians on their missile tests in order to keep open the doors to more arms reduction talks. But that’s a mistake, one said.

“If the Russian government has made a considered decision to field a prohibited system, then it is the strongest indication to date that they are not interested in pursuing any arms control, at least through the remainder of President Obama’s term,” said Franklin Miller, a former defense official at the White House and Pentagon, in The Times report.

The State Department, meanwhile, put out an official statement about the issue through spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who said in The Times: “The United States never hesitates to raise treaty compliance concerns with Russia and this issue is no exception. There’s an ongoing review process and we wouldn’t want to speculate or prejudge the outcome.”

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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