Washington will not let Russia have military advantage over the United States, the country’s highest ranking military officer told the Senate on Tuesday.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford on Tuesday adressed the Senate’s Committee on Armed Services, which was to expand his term for another two years. Prior to the event, Dunford gave written responses to some of questions submitted by senators beforehand.
Among other things, the senators asked him how Washington should "address the military implications" of "Russia’s deployment of a nuclear ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM)."
"We must continue to engage Russia, both directly and together with our allies to encourage them to return to full and verifiable compliance with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty," Dunford said in his response, obtained by TASS. "The status quo, in which we are complying with the treaty and they are not, is untenable."
According to the US official, the deployment of a new GLCM, contributes "to Russia’s broader set of nuclear and conventional strike capabilities that pose a threat to U.S. forces and our allies in the European and the Pacific Theaters."
"We will work with our allies and Congress to ensure we have the capabilities, both offensive and defensive, to ensure Russia does not gain a military advantage from violating the treaty," Dunford said.
According to the general, the Trump administration "has been conducting an extensive policy review of Russia's ongoing INF violation."
"This policy review will result in recommendations of an appropriate U.S. response, which will include potential military measures to increase pressure on Russia to return to full and verifiable compliance with its treaty obligations," he said.
"We are working with the Administration to provide greater detail in the coming weeks on our strategy to respond to Russia's INF violation," Dunford added.
One of the senators asked Dunford whether he still viewed Russia as "the greatest threat to our national security." The statement was made by Dunford during his nomination hearing back in 2015.
"Today Russia does present the greatest array of military challenges and remains the only potential existential threat to the United States," Dunford replied. "Russia is also modernizing all elements of its nuclear triad."
On September 18, the Senate passed a $700 billion defense policy bill for fiscal year 2018 (to begin on October 1). The document, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, was passed by a 89-8 vote.
Under the text, the US president was to make a report to relevant Congress committees on whether Russia indeed tested, possessed or produced ground-launched cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. If the answer is positive, then provisions of the INF treaty’s Article IV will no longer be legally binding for the United States.
The article bars the sides from producing and testing deployed and non-deployed intermediate-range missiles and deployed and non-deployed launchers of such missiles.
At the same time, $50 million were allocated to the Pentagon for designing systems to counter missiles with a range of 500-5,500 km.