16 February, 2017
The Obama administration three years ago accused the Russians of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by developing and testing the cruise missile. The officials claimed that the Russians now have two SSC-8 battalions, one at the Kapustin Yar missile test site in southeast Russia and another which was sent to an operational base elsewhere in the country.
The first few weeks of a new presidency "are always a convenient time for our adversaries to test the administration while it's short-staffed and distracted", Julie Smith, a former senior White House and Pentagon official, told Foreign Policy.
In short, the treaty stopped the USA from placing its own intermediate-range nuclear missiles all over Western Europe after Russian Federation developed its own missiles to target Western European capitals in the 1980s.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended the missile program, arguing the United States is also in breach of the treaty and new missiles are needed to maintain the balance of power.
The report came as Trump's National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned on Monday over the controversy about his phone conversation with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak before Trump's inauguration in January.
"Russia's deployment of a prohibited nuclear cruise missile system is a clear escalation in threatening behavior".
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President Trump has called for warmer relations with Moscow, but Republican lawmakers voiced concern Tuesday over the reported missile activity. John McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, called on the Trump administration to ensure US nuclear forces in Europe are ready.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis is due to visit NATO's headquarters to meet with his counterparts Wednesday.
The missiles are nuclear-capable, said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, dealing a hefty symbolic blow to nonproliferation efforts.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation nations - including the USA - are said to face an increased military threat, according to The New York Times.
But because the U.S. upheld its end of the treaty, it has no comparable nuclear-capable cruise missiles with which to match Russian Federation.