The top Democrats on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees want a briefing from the Trump administration on its plans to withdraw from a Reagan-era nuclear arms control treaty.
President Trump said Saturday he would pull the U.S. out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that covers land-based, mid-range missiles. The administration alleged that Russia has been violating the terms of the treaty by developing new cruise missiles.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the lawmakers warned that withdrawing from the treaty could “plunge us headlong into a twenty-first century nuclear arms race.”
“We write to express our grave concern that the Trump administration is notifying Russia that the United States intends to unilaterally withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, without any notice to or consultation with Congress, even as our committees had requested a briefing on these issues,” wrote Reps. Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the ranking members of Armed Services and Foreign Affairs.
"If this action is taken, it would risk an arms race, would jeopardize the security of our allies in Europe and Asia, and would significantly undermine U.S. leadership on arms control," they added.
Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats co-signed the letter.
At a meeting Tuesday in Moscow with Russian President Vladmir Putin, national security adviser John Bolton reaffirmed the decision, and said a formal notice of withdrawal from the treaty “will be filed in due course.”
The Democratic lawmakers asked that Mattis and Pompeo brief lawmakers during the week of Nov. 13, when Congress is back in session.
“We expect a full explanation of why Congress was not even informed of such a decision, and an explanation of why the administration has chosen to take such precipitous, ill-advised — and potentially reckless — action, rather than working with our allies to increase pressure on Russia to return to compliance under the treaty,” they wrote.
European officials have cautioned Trump not to exit the deal, despite sharing U.S. worries about Russia’s continued violations of the treaty over the years.
The three lawmakers said the withdrawal could “needlessly” divide the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and undermine U.S. “leadership and reliability as a stable and predictable partner on matters involving European security."
They also asked a series of questions that they want answered by Nov. 2, which include an assessment of the military threat to the U.S. and its European allies should Russia deploy intermediate-range cruise and ballistic missiles “without restriction.”