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US Lawmakers Alarmed by Russia's Reported Missile Deployment


U.S. lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle reacted with concern to reports Tuesday that Russia deployed a new type of nuclear cruise missile.

The New York Times was the first to report that Russia has fielded a ground launched cruise missile, known during its experimental phase as SSC-X-8. Such a deployment would violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the lawmakers said.

The Novator-made system may have a range of about 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), according to the Arms Control Wonk website.

After testing the technology in 2014, Russia has equipped two battalions with the system -- one at a missile test site in Kapustin Yar in the south near Volgogra and the other to an operational base at an undisclosed location in the country, the Times reported.

"These reports, if true, are disturbing but not surprising," Rep. William "Mac" Thornberry, a Republican from Texas and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

The Obama administration "did very little" to confront Russia on the violations of the INF treaty, Thornberry said. "As a consequence, the only arms control treaty to ever successfully eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons lies in tatters. Our military has warned publicly that such a violation poses a military risk to the United States, our allies, and our deployed forces."

The congressman added, "There are clearly lessons here for the Trump Administration about the price of not confronting aggression which puts international security at risk."

Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island and the ranking member on the counterpart panel in the Senate, said the report "should serve as a wake-up call to the Trump administration's dealings with Russia as of late."

Reed described the treaty, brokered by then-President Ronald Reagan, as the "backbone of Cold War strategic stability" that helped to eliminate "an entire class of destabilizing short-range ground-launched nuclear missiles."

The senator added, "I urge the Trump Administration to immediately address these allegations with Russia and make every effort to bring them back into compliance with their treaty obligations."

The Trump administration is struggling to deal with the fallout from the resignation late Monday of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, the retired Army lieutenant general, over his contacts with the Russian ambassador before the U.S. president took office.

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