Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week confirmed the US was ready to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a Cold War-era agreement that blocks signatories America and Russia from using short- and intermediate-range missiles.
Speaking at the NATO headquarters on Tuesday, Pompeo said the Trump Administration would withdraw from the treaty in 60 days unless Russia admits its wrongdoing and “fully and verifiably” comes back into compliance.
“We would welcome a Russian change of heart, a change in direction, the destruction of their program, and their followed-on continuance of the terms of the treaty,” said Pompeo, “and so over the next 60 days they have every chance to do so.”
In October, President Trump accused Moscow of violating the INF and announced his intentions to withdraw.
Such a move would force Moscow to start building missiles, said Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Our American partners apparently believe that the situation has changed to such an event that the US should have such weapons,” said Putin. “What answer will they have from our side? It’s simple: we’ll do it too.”
Russia’s top military official General Valery Gerasimov made it clear that Russia’s new missiles would target US allies.
The INF bans the construction of missiles with ranges between 300 and 4,000 miles and prohibits the testing or producing of new ground-based missiles.
Trump insists Russia’s 9M729 cruise missile program violates the pact. Moscow admits to testing the weapon, but at ranges below those banned under the INF.
In the meantime, European nations fear that ending the treaty would facilitate the re-emergence of short-range nuclear missiles that take little time to launch (and therefore give targets little time to react).
But according to US intelligence, Russia is already capable of launching a nuclear strike in Europe with little notice.
No matter how you look at it, eliminating the INF is bad news for Europe
The advantage for the US is that we will have more options to prepare for threats from Russia and other enemies.
China Iran, and North Korea are not bound by the INF’s limitations, noted Pompeo. “This leaves them free to build all the intermediate range missiles they would like…There is no reason the United States should continue to cede this crucial military advantage to revisionist powers like China, in particular when these weapons are being used to threaten and coerce the United States and its allies in Asia.”