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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 44 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Trump, Melania received COVID vaccine at White House in January — CDC director warns "now is not the time" to lift COVID restrictions.
  2. Vaccine: J&J CEO "absolutely" confident in vaccine distribution goals Most states aren't prioritizing prisons for COVID vaccines — Vaccine hesitancy is shrinking.
  3. Economy: Apple says all U.S. stores open for the first time since start of pandemic — What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.
  5. World: Italy tightens restrictions as experts warn of growing prevalence of variants — PA announces new COVID restrictions as cases surge.
  6. Local: Colorado sets timeline for return to normalcy.
Updated 47 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump received COVID vaccine at White House in January

Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Former President Trump and former first lady Melania Trump were both vaccinated at the White House in January, a Trump adviser tells Axios.

Why it matters: Trump declared at CPAC on Sunday that "everybody" should get the coronavirus vaccine — the first time he's encouraged his supporters, who have been more skeptical of getting vaccinated, to do so.

Biden administration seeks to allow separated migrant families to reunite in U.S.

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced Monday that the Biden administration will explore "lawful pathways" to allow migrant families separated under the Trump administration to reunite in the U.S.

Why it matters: Biden has pledged to reunite the hundreds of families still separated as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, and signed an executive order last month creating a family separation task force chaired by Mayorkas.