Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday confirmed the Trump Administration had decided to suspend the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a Cold-war era pact with Russia that bans ground-launched missiles with a range between 310 and 3,400 miles.
President Trump in October warned of his intentions to withdraw from the agreement based on Russia’s ongoing lack of compliance with its terms.
In December, Pompeo gave Moscow two months to demonstrate compliance before the United States would suspend its commitment to the treaty.
“For years, Russia has violated the terms of the INF without remorse,” said Pompeo this week. “Russia’s violations put millions of Europeans and Americans at greater risk.”
The United States will fully withdraw from the pact in 180 days unless Russia demonstrates full compliance.
“The United States has fully adhered to the INF for more than 30 years, but we will not remain constrained by its terms while Russia misrepresents its actions,” said Trump on Friday. “We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other.”
Trump in the past has noted that China is not bound by the treaty.
Trump also confirmed the US would “move forward with developing our own military response options,” work with allies “to deny Russia any military advantage from its unlawful conduct,” and – if possible – “engage with Russia on arms control negotiations.”
Trump’s decision was supported unanimously by our European allies, who are at particular risk from the type of missiles the INF is designed to prevent.
“Unless Russia honors its INF Treaty obligations through the verifiable destruction of all of its 9M729 systems, thereby returning to full and verifiable compliance before the US withdrawal takes effect in six months, Russia will bear sole responsibility for the end of the treaty,” said NATO in a statement.
Another big concern is that ending the INF could spark an arms race between Russia and the United States (according to Pompeo, Russia’s lack of compliance has already started an arms race).
“We are heading into a direction we have not been in 40 years: no arms control limits or rules that we are both following, and that is very dangerous,” warns Lynn Rusten, who led arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council under President Obama.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to insist that it never violated the treaty.