US formally withdraws from 1987 nuclear pact with Russia today

The expiration of the 2 August deadline means that the US will now have just one arms control treaty with Russia left

US President Donald Trump with Russian counterprt Vladimir Putin

Today the United States is to formally withdraw from the 1987 landmark nuclear missile pact with Russia after determining that Moscow was in violation of the treaty and had no plans to come into compliance with it. Some experts believe the deal’s collapse could undermine other arms control agreements and speed an erosion of the global system designed to block the spread of nuclear arms. 

Known as the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), the accord bans either side from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe. But Washington signaled its intention six months ago to pull out of the agreement if Russia made no move to adhere to it.

“The United States will not remain party to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement about the US withdrawal, ordered by President Donald Trump.

“Russia’s noncompliance under the treaty jeopardizes US supreme interests as Russia’s development and fielding of a treaty-violating missile system represents a direct threat to the United States and our allies and partners,” Pompeo added. 

Previously, senior administration officials have claimed that Russia had deployed “multiple battalions” of a Russian cruise missile throughout Russia in violation of the pact, including in Western Russia, “with the ability to strike critical European targets.” Moscow, however denies the allegation, saying the missile’s range puts it outside the treaty, and has accused the United States of inventing a false pretext to exit a treaty Washington wants to leave anyway so it can develop new missiles. Russia has also rejected a US demand to destroy the new missile.

The INF treaty, negotiated in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ratified by the US Senate, eliminated the medium-range missile arsenals of the world’s two biggest nuclear powers and reduced their ability to launch a nuclear strike at short notice. The treaty also banned land-based missiles with a range between 500-5,500 km.

Thus, European officials have voiced concern that if the treaty collapses, Europe could again become an arena for nuclear-armed, intermediate-range missile buildups by the United States and Russia. 

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