WASHINGTON – The United States announced on Friday that it will withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, an agreement that dates back to the Cold War aimed at eliminating all short-range and medium-range nuclear and conventional weapons.
The US will suspend its obligations under the 1987 pact on Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a press conference in Washington, due to Russia’s violations of the treaty.
The announcement begins a 180-day process, after which the United States will definitively withdraw from the treaty, something that, the European Union (EU) has warned, could kick off a new arms race between the world’s two great nuclear powers.
US President Donald Trump left the door open to staying in the treaty if “Russia comes back into compliance by destroying all of its violating missiles, launchers, and associated equipment” that violate the conditions of the 1987 treaty.
“For far too long, Russia has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad,” Trump said in a statement.
The president said that US allies in NATO “fully support” his decision “because they understand the threat posed by Russia’s violation and the risks to arms control posed by ignoring treaty violations.”
“We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other,” said Trump, who has withdrawn his country from several international pacts since taking office in 2017.
“We will move forward with developing our own military response options and will work with NATO and our other allies and partners to deny Russia any military advantage from its unlawful conduct,” the president warned.
The United States and Russia mutually accuse one another of violating the treaty, which bans the two signatory countries from producing, deploying or testing short-range (500-1,000 kilometers) (310-620 miles) or medium range (1,000-5,500 kilometers) missiles.
Since Trump threatened last October to suspend the pact, the United States has had several rounds of negotiations with Russia to try to reach an agreement, but the last round ended unsuccessfully this Thursday in Beijing.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned this Friday that the suspension of the treaty “means an actual liberation of Washington from any restrictions related to the operation of the treaty,” so in the worst of cases, the US could start deploying Tomahawk cruise missiles with nuclear capability in eastern Europe right away.