Russia suspends INF nuclear deal with US
WASHINGTON – Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin told a meeting with foreign and defence ministers on Feb. 2 that Russia has suspended the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty following a similar decision by the United States, the Kremlin said.
Putin also said that Russia will start working on creating new missiles, including supersonic ones, and told ministers not to initiate disarmament talks with Washington.
The United States announced on Feb. 1 it will withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia in six months unless Moscow ends its alleged violations of the landmark 1987 arms control pact.
The United States would reconsider its withdrawal if Russia, which denies violating the treaty, came into compliance with the agreement, which bans both nations from stationing short- and intermediate-range land-based missiles in Europe.
Announcing the move, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would cease to regard itself as being bound by the treaty starting Feb. 2, which is when Washington will formally inform Moscow of its intent to withdraw, a senior U.S. official told reporters.
The announcement may aim to pressure Russia to come to terms during the next six months but it also raised fears of a new U.S.-Russian nuclear arms race in Europe as well as one between the United States and China in Asia.
U.S. President Donald Trump repeated U.S. allegations that Russia had violated the INF treaty, which limited only U.S. and Russian arsenals, and he held out the prospect of negotiating a wider agreement, possibly including other nations.
“I hope that we’re able to get everybody in a big and beautiful room and do a new treaty that would be much better. Certainly I would like to see that,” Trump told reporters.
Trump’s tenure has been dogged by allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to help his candidacy, which Moscow denies. The dispute over INF has contributed to U.S.-Russia frictions, now at their worst since the Cold War ended in 1991 despite Trump’s stated desire for better ties.
“If Russia does not return to full and verifiable compliance with the treaty within this six-month period by verifiably destroying its INF-violating missiles, their launchers, and associated equipment, the treaty will terminate,” Pompeo told reporters.
Russia Sees False Pretext
Russian officials accused the United States of inventing a false pretext to exit a treaty that it wants to leave anyway so it can develop new missiles.
Speaking before the announcement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia regretted the expected U.S. move and accused Washington of failing to negotiate to avoid such an outcome.
“The unwillingness of the Americans to listen to any arguments and to hold substantive negotiations with us shows that the decision to break this treaty was taken in Washington a long time ago,” Peskov told reporters.
The United States alleges a new Russian cruise missile violates the pact. The missile, the Novator 9M729, is known as the SSC-8 by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The treaty required the parties to destroy ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 km (310 to 3,420 miles). Last week, the head of Russia’s military’s missile and artillery forces said the new missile’s maximum range fell short of the treaty’s lower limit.
Russia has rejected the U.S. demand to destroy the new missile.
NATO “does not have any intention to deploy new land-based nuclear weapons to Europe,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters on Feb. 1, saying the Western security alliance had intelligence from the United States and other allies confirming that Russia had violated the treaty.
“We don’t have to mirror what Russia does. But at the same time we have to make sure that we maintain credible and effective deterrence,” he said, without giving specifics on military options NATO is considering.
France and Germany both emphasized the importance of using the six-month window to keep talking.
Formal U.S. withdrawal could give the Pentagon new options to counter Chinese missile advances but experts warn the ensuing arms race could greatly escalate tensions in the Asia-Pacific.