The US Joint Staff has conducted a military assessment of a threat posed because of the violation of an arms control agreement by Russia, a senior US defence official has revealed.
US Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Brian McKeon said Russia remains in non-compliance of the intermediate nuclear-range forces (INF) treaty, despite diplomatic discussions on the issue since 2013.
"As a result of Russia's actions, the Joint Staff has conducted a military assessment of the threat were Russia to deploy an INF treaty-range, ground-launch cruise missile in Europe or the Asia-Pacific region," McKeon said.
"This assessment has led us to review a broad range of military response options and to consider the effect each option could have on convincing Russian leadership to return to compliance with the INF treaty, as well as countering the capability of a Russian INF treaty-prohibited system."
Signed between the US and the Soviet Union in 1987, the INF treaty regulates the destruction of ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500km and 5,500km, their launchers, associated support structures and support equipment.
The Pentagon insists that it does not want to engage in an 'escalatory cycle' of action and reaction, and has opened diplomatic talks with Russia, while discussing other potential measures in coordination with its allies.
McKeon added: "Unfortunately, Russia has not been forthcoming with any information, nor has it acknowledged the existence of a non-compliant cruise missile.
"However, Russia's lack of meaningful engagement on this issue, if it persists, will ultimately require the US to take actions to protect its interests and security, along with those of its allies and partners.
"This violation will not go unanswered, because there is too much at stake."
According to the Pentagon, Moscow is also violating the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe treaty and concerns also exist with its compliance with other treaties.
Image: An inspector examines a BGM-109G Tomahawk ground-launched cruise missile before its destruction. Photo: courtesy of Jose Lopez.