Washington: President Barack Obama`s nominee to become the next US defense secretary said on Wednesday that Russia needed to be reminded that a Cold War-era arms control agreement was a "two-way street" and that Washington could respond to any violations.
Washington and Moscow have long questioned each other`s commitment to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. It eliminated nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 500-5,500 km (300-3,400 miles) near the end of the Cold War.
Ashton Carter, a former Pentagon No. 2 who is expected to win swift Senate confirmation, said the United States has a range of actions it could take, including defensive and deterrent steps, if Russia violates the treaty.
"I think you have to remind Russia that this was a two-way street," Carter said at his Senate confirmation hearing.
"If you don`t want to have that treaty, well then you`re absolved from your restrictions in that treaty, and we are too."
The United States has said Moscow`s testing of a ground-launched cruise missile violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty. Russia argues that Washington`s use of drones and other intermediate-range arms amounts to a violation.
Relations between the two countries are at their lowest since the Cold War because of Russia`s role in the crisis in Ukraine. Carter also said at the hearing he was leaning in favor of arming Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russia-backed separatists, in what would be a shift in U.S. policy.
He later cautioned, however, that the focus must remain on pressuring Russia economically and politically.