Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The U.S. believes Russia has likely violated a ban on testing low-yield nuclear missiles, Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley told the Hudson Institute think tank in a speech in Washington, D.C., Wednesday.

"The United States believes that Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the 'zero yield' standard. ... Our understanding of nuclear weapon development leads us to believe that Russia's testing activities would help it improve its nuclear weapons capabilities."

Details: Ashley said Russia was likely testing weapons in the Novaya Zemlya islands, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean in northern Russia. He believes it intends to increase its nuclear arsenal "significantly" over the next decade.

Why it matters: This is the first time the U.S. has suggested Russia might have effectively violated its commitments under the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

  • It's a critical time for U.S.-Russian relations. The Trump administration announced in February it would withdraw from the Cold-War era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, due to formally end in August. The Pentagon plans to then begin testing missiles banned under the treaty.

The big picture: Russia has said it complies with the treaty, which it ratified in 2008. The U.S. has signed the treaty but not ratified it.

What they're saying: The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, which bans nuclear weapons testing, said in a statement it hadn't detected any unusual activity, per the BBC.

Go deeper: How Russia's old threat became new again

Go deeper

Updated 12 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 12,607,510 — Total deaths: 562,338 — Total recoveries — 6,948,863Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 3,228,884 — Total deaths: 134,600 — Total recoveries: 983,185 — Total tested: 38,919,421Map.
  3. Public health: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: "Please wear a mask to save lives" Fauci hasn't briefed Trump on the coronavirus pandemic in at least two months — We're losing the war on the coronavirus.
  4. Food: How the coronavirus pandemic boosted alternative meat.
  5. Sports: Charge of "money grab" by college football.
  6. World: India reimposes lockdowns as coronavirus cases soar.

Supreme Court expands religious freedoms in schools, employment

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Supreme Court ended its term with a series of rulings on religion's role in schools, the workplace and access to health care.

Why it matters: The decisions elevated protections for people and employers of faith, while curtailing those of religion teachers, the nonreligious taxpayer and women who rely on their workplaces' health care plans for contraception.

Scoop: Don Jr. plans convention-week Biden book

Cover via Don Jr.

Donald Trump Jr., in quarantine since girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle tested positive for the coronavirus, says he's used the time to finish a book that he'll self-publish the week of the Republican convention, at the end of August.

What he's saying: Don Jr., whose controversial blasts connect with President Trump's base, told me in a phone interview that "Liberal Privilege" will be his effort to paint a picture of Joe Biden and his record that the press ignores.