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Putin's provacations mean Obama has a 'Russia problem'

To the editor: Steven Pifer is correct to argue for "continued U.S. observance" of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in response to its finding that "Russia violated [that treaty] by testing a prohibited cruise missile." Also, he is right that the United States should "press Russian officials, through the Special Verification Commission" established by the INF Treaty. These are necessary, but insufficient. ("What should Obama do about Russia and the INF Treaty? Channel Reagan.," Op-Ed, July 30)

If Russia did violate the treaty, this is not only a technical arms-control issue, and it needs to be seen in the overall pattern of Kremlin behavior. President Vladimir Putin has surely gone very far with this violation and in his overall military activities: in Crimea, in Ukraine, in repeated exercises of forces in his Western Military District. On the one hand, these activities show the depth of his alienation in his relations with the West. On the other, they show his willingness to use military means to destabilize the post-Cold War European order.

The Obama administration needs a strategy for dealing with an aggrieved and potentially dangerous Kremlin. It is not enough to apply a sanction here and to make a demarche there. We now face a major "Russia problem."

Larry T. Caldwell, Beaumont

The writer, a professor emeritus of politics at Occidental College, has taught courses on U.S. national security and Russian foreign policy.

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