The Obama administration has charged Russia of violating a 1987 treaty on intermediate-range missiles (INF) by unilaterally testing a ground-launched cruise missile. According to reports in the Washington Post, the violation of the treaty was detected a few years ago. Raising the matter at the highest level, President Obama sent a letter to Russian President Validimir Putin early this week.
It was unclear how long the testing of cruise missile lasted or it was still going on. According to a top official quoted in the report, Russia has been notified of the determination of US that it must be discussed in a senior-level bilateral dialogue at the earliest.
In the letter Obama reminded Putin that Russia began testing the missiles in 2008 and the State Department had raised the matter of treaty violation with Russian officials many times with the latest in 2013. However Russia had said it looked into the matter and considered the issue as closed.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was signed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. It prohibits possession production or flight testing of a ground based cruise missiles in a range of 300 to 3,400 miles and production of missile launchers for it.
Interestingly the US has chosen to raise the treaty violation when the relations between the United States and Russia had strained after Russia's backing of rebels in eastern Ukraine and the catastrophe of downing the Malaysian plane.
Obama noted in the letter that despite differences Moscow continued to cooperate with Washington on a range of nuclear and foreign policy issues.
A report in the New York Times said Russia has also cornered the US in the name of treaty violation. When Ms. Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary of State in the Department of State raised the American concerns Russia retorted by pointing to the US plans to keep the Aegis missile system in Romania.
The Aegis system is used on warships to protect American and NATO forces from missile attacks. Russians allege that this also amounted to violation of treaty as it covers developing prohibited cruise missiles.
Last week when State Secretary John Kerry spoke to Russian foreign minister Lavrov, the Russian minister raised again Russia's concerns over decoys referring to United States anti-missile tests as a breach of I.N.F. treaty.