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With Fraying U.S.-Russian Ties Comes Fraying Arms Control

Russian servicemen equip an Iskander tactical missile system at the Army-2015 international military-technical forum in Kubinka, outside Moscow, in 2015.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Congress is moving decisively to start dismantling some of the bedrock agreements of U.S.-Russian arms control, reflecting the dangerous state of relations between Washington and Moscow and raising the specter of a new arms race.

In a series of measures attached to the proposed $696 billion defense budget for 2018, Republican-led lawmakers have taken aim at the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, as well as the Open Skies and even New START treaties.

All three are widely considered important cornerstones of stability for global arms control, and the measures' likely passage signals a sharp break from years of U.S. policy.

"It would deal a major blow to the U.S.-Russia arms-control architecture, which is already under significant strain," says Kingston Reif, an analyst with the Arms Control Association, a Washington research group.

"These provisions would undermine U.S. security by eroding stability between the world's two largest nuclear powers, increasing the risks of nuclear competition, and further alienating allies already unsettled by [U.S. President Donald] Trump's commitment to their security," he adds.

Relations between Washington and Moscow have eroded over the past decade amid disputes over NATO expansion and U.S. missile defense, democratization and "color revolutions" in the former Soviet Union, and, more recently, Moscow's interventions in Ukraine and Syria.

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