The US has formally withdrawn from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, NPR reports. The two sides blamed each other for the collapse of the decades old treaty.
The United States warned Russia in February that a lack of compliance would result in a US pull-out and suspended its treaty obligations, which resulted in Russia withdrawing in reciprocation a day later.
Today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put the blame for the end of the 32 year-old treaty squarely on Russia and said in a statement that President Trump is
“beginning a new chapter by seeking a new era of arms control”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry released its own statement which called the decision by the US to withdraw a “grave mistake” and stated, “through its purposeful actions the United States first undermined the INF Treaty, and then moved to set the stage for its definitive breakdown”.
Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, tweeted that Russia bears “sole responsibility” and, in a statement, said the US decision is “fully supported by NATO allies” and that the military alliance is “firmly committed to the preservation of effective international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation”.
At a press conference today, Stoltenberg said, “The fact that we don’t have the INF Treaty anymore, the fact that the Russians over the years have deployed new missiles, which can reach European cities within minutes, which are hard to detect, are mobile and are nuclear capable, and therefore reduce the threshold of any potential use of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict — of course that’s a bad day for all of us who believe in arms control and stability in Europe.” He continued, addressing concerns from NATO allies such as Poland who are concerned with the idea of the US deploying missiles in Europe, “We don’t want a new arms race. And we have no intention to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.”
The INF Treaty, which was signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and banned an entire class of ground-launched missiles, resulted in more than 2,600 missiles being destroyed. With the demise of this treaty, the only remaining arms control measure between Russia and the US is the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. New START will expire in 2021 unless renewed and that is unlikely, according to the New York Times.
CNN reports that in next few weeks the Trump administration plans to test a new non-nuclear mobile-launched cruise missile which was developed to take on Russia in Europe, according to a senior US defense official.
The testing, which had been prohibited by the treaty, will be taking place because “Russia cannot maintain military advantage”, according to an administration official who spoke to reporters. The official said, “We are literally years away before we would be at a point where we would talk about basing of any particular capability. Because of our steadfast adherence to the treaty over 32 years, we are barely, after almost a year, at a point where we are contemplating initial flight tests.”
However, per CNN, in March, the Pentagon said this missile could be deployed in 18 months and according to arms control experts, converting existing system into the ground-based missile that will be tested is not difficult. “It’s well within the capability of major defense contractors and the army to pull off,” says Jon Wolfsthal, a nuclear expert who served in the Obama administration.
President Trump and Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone this week and, per NPR, the conversation included trade and the Siberia wildfires but the INF Treaty was not discussed.