Zach Cartwright | February 14, 2017
President Donald Trump is in a very awkward position, as Vladimir Putin just violated a 30-year-old treaty aimed at easing tension with the United States.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the Russian Federation deployed a new cruise missile in secret, which flies in the face of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed at the end of the Cold War by both Russia and the U.S. The treaty bans either country from testing land-based, intermediate-ranged missiles. The illegal missile, dubbed as the SSC-8 (dubbed 9M728 by Russia), was first tested in 2014, prompting former President Barack Obama to call out Russian president Vladimir Putin for violating the treaty. Russia now has two battalions of the deadly missile.
“Each missile battalion is believed to have four mobile launchers and a larger supply of missiles,” wrote the Times‘ Michael R. Gordon. “The launcher for the cruise missile, however, closely resembles the launcher used for the Iskander, a nuclear-tipped short-range system that is permitted under treaties.”
Gordon also wrote that Russia’s secret deployment of the missile system is a national security crisis for NATO nations, prompting General James Mattis — Trump’s Secretary of Defense — to take an emergency trip to Belgium to discuss the missile with NATO officials:
The deployment of the system could also increase the military threat to NATO nations, which potentially would be one of the principal targets. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is scheduled to meet with allied defense ministers in Brussels on Wednesday.
Before he left his post last year as the NATO commander and retired from the military, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove warned that deployment of the cruise missile would be a militarily significant development that “can’t go unanswered.”
News of the treaty’s violation couldn’t come at a worse time for President Trump, who is currently attempting to fill the vacant National Security Advisor post following the resignation of General Michael Flynn (Ret.), who may have violated the Logan Act in a call with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about lifting the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia.
Trump, who campaigned on restoring the strained relationship with the United States and Russia, is also likely to be under increased scrutiny by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence after committee member Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) called for an “exhaustive” investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia.
Trump’s problems deepen when taking into consideration Michael Flynn’s vulnerability to Russian blackmail, as former acting Attorney General Sally Yates alleged prior to her being fired for refusing to defend Trump’s Muslim ban. Parts of the Russian intelligence dossier authored by MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele — which claims to show Trump’s deep ties to the Putin regime — have been confirmed by U.S. intelligence officials. While the more salacious parts of the Steele dossier (like the “golden showers” excerpt) have yet to be verified, the possibility may exist that Russia has embarrassing details about President Trump that the 45th President of the United States would prefer to remain undisclosed.
The situation seems to be a follow-through on a promise Putin made in December of 2016, who said he would increase Russia’s nuclear capabilities in the years to come. President Trump tweeted a promise to do the same with America’s nukes.
As of this writing, neither Trump nor his top surrogates have responded to the deployment of Russia’s new cruise missile.