Cold war-era missile treaty dead

Washington/Moscow, August 2

The United States formally withdrew from the landmark Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia on Friday after determining that Moscow was in violation of the treaty, something the Kremlin has denied.

Washington signalled it would pull out of the arms control treaty six months ago unless Moscow stuck to the accord, but Russia said that was a ploy to exit a treaty it said the US wanted to leave anyway in order to develop new missiles.

“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. Senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said 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”.

Russia denies the allegation, saying the missile’s range puts it outside the treaty. It has also rejected a US demand to destroy the new missile, the Novator 9M729, which is known as the SSC-8 by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Moscow has told Washington its decision to quit the pact undermines global security and removes a key pillar of international arms control.

On Friday, Russia said it had asked the United States for a moratorium on the deployment of short and intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe.

“We have proposed to the United States and other NATO countries that they weigh the possibility of declaring the same kind of moratorium on the deployment of short and intermediate range missiles as ours,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg dismissed Russia’s moratorium request on Friday, saying it was “not a credible offer” since he said Moscow had already deployed illegal missiles.

“There are no new US missiles, no new NATO missiles in Europe, but there are more and more new Russian missiles,” he said, adding,  “We don’t want a new arms race.” — Reuters

‘it’s a Dangerous step’

It is a dangerous step that will likely heighten the threat posed by ballistic missiles… we will lose an invaluable brake on nuclear war.  — Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General

‘Russia responsible for move’

Russia is solely responsible for the treaty’s demise. Its non-compliance under the treaty jeopardises US supreme interests. — Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of state

Trust deficit

  • The 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was negotiated by then US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
  • It banned both sides from stationing in Europe land-based missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 km, reducing ability to launch a nuclear strike 
  • Earlier this year, the US and NATO accused Russia of violating the pact, claimed had evidence Moscow had deployed a number of 9M729 missiles
  • Even though Russia repeatedly denied charges, US President Donald Trump in February set the deadline for August 2 for Russia to come into compliance