White House won't give Congress report on Russian INF treaty breach
Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, says that the White House is blocking the release of a risk assessment report on Russia's violations of the Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) agreement. The State Department announced that Russia was in violation of the treaty last year.
The Russian cheating involves the construction of a new cruise missile that violates limits set by the treaty. Not much more is known because the issue is shrouded in secrecy.
White House failure to release the report is preventing Congress from passing legislation to counter the new missile, as well as the general threat from cruise missiles.
“As we look to the near-term future, we need to consider how we’re going to respond to Russia’s INF violations,” Rogers said in an Air Force Association breakfast July 8. “Congress will not continue to tolerate the administration dithering on this issue.”
Rogers said the assessment was conducted by chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, and noted that it outlines potential responses to the treaty breach.
However, Rogers noted that the assessment “seems to stay tied up in the White House.”
At the Pentagon, spokesman Capt. Greg Hicks said: “The Chairman’s assessment of Russia’s Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty violation is classified and not releasable to the public.”
Hicks said, however, that steps are being taking “across the government to address Russia’s violation of the treaty, including preserving military response options—but no decision has been made with regard to the type of response, if any.”
At the White House, a senior administration official said: “The United States continues to consider diplomatic, economic, and military responses to Russia’s violation of the INF Treaty.”
Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said in Omaha recently that a range of options is being studied.
“Clearly as a nation, we have options and we explore those options,” Haney told the Washington Free Beacon, declining to provide details.
The four-star admiral who is in charge of U.S. nuclear and other strategic forces said he hopes the INF breach can be solved diplomatically.
“But clearly there are other options involving economics and as well as militarily that are considered,” he said July 29.
Haney said Russia has “walked away” from international norms and treaties and “that is very problematic.”
“While at the same time I get to see and witness [Russia’s] very forthright execution that is occurring with the New START treaty that they are adhering to completely, this piece on the INF treaty is very problematic and we have to continue to encourage Russia to get back into compliance with the treaty,” Haney said.
The classified nature of the treaty prevents it from being released to the public, but clearly, the intelligence committee should have access to it. The White House is stonewalling its release because once it's in the hands of Congress, lawmakers will want to do something to respond to the volations. President Obama is obviously reluctant to provoke President Putin by calling him out for his cheating, so any actions we take will be largely symbolic and useless.