US formally withdraws from Cold-War era nuclear treaty with Russia

WASHINGTON — The United States announced Friday it has formally withdrawn from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Moscow, putting an end to a landmark arms control pact that has limited the development of ground-based missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

“Russia is solely responsible for the treaty’s demise,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Friday announcing the US’ formal withdrawal from the Cold-War era nuclear treaty.

Pompeo said “Russia failed to return to full and verified compliance through the destruction of its noncompliant missile system.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday the termination of the treaty was at the initiative of Washington, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.

The US initially announced in February that this would take place on August 2.

CNN reported Thursday that the US military is set to test a new non-nuclear mobile-launched cruise missile developed specifically to challenge Russia in Europe, according to a senior US defense official.

The test is expected to take place in the next few weeks and will essentially be the Trump administration’s answer to Russia’s years-long non-compliance with the INF treaty, the senior US defense official said.

A senior administration official told reporters that the US will be testing the cruise missiles that were forbidden by the INF treaty because “Russia cannot maintain military advantage” but said that it will take years for the US to deploy those weapons.

“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,” explained the senior administration official, noting that the US would only look at deploying conventional weapons, not nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, analysts fear the US test of the non-nuclear cruise missile will mark the start of a new arms race with Moscow.

The Trump administration casts the forthcoming testing of these missiles as necessary to US national security, seeking to tamp down any suggestion that the US is triggering an arms race.

When asked if the US will commit to maintaining some kind of arms control despite this treaty being defunct, the official largely put the onus on Russia.

“I can’t speak for the Russian federation so I can’t promise that they will be amenable to additional arms control,” the official said. “I can only tell you that the US, from the President on down, is interested in finding an effective arms control solution.”

International allies, including the United Kingdom, emphasized their support for the move.

NATO allies said in a statement that Russia remains in violation of the INF Treaty, “despite years of U.S. and Allied engagement,” adding that they fully support the US decision to withdraw.

NATO added that over the past six months Russia had a “final opportunity” to honor the treaty but failed.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Russia caused the INF treaty collapse, tweeting, “Their contempt for the rules based international system threatens European security.”

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