Trump administration to suspend nuclear treaty with Russia

The Trump administration announced Friday that it would suspend its obligations under a decades old Cold War arms control pact with Russia on Saturday, citing Moscow's violations of the treaty. 

The White House announced the decision to stop complying with the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in a statement from President Trump early Friday, just before Secretary of State Mike Pompeoaddressed the move in remarks from the State Department.

“Russia has refused to take any steps to return to real and verifiable compliance over these 60 days,” Pompeo said.

“The United States will therefore suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty effective Feb. 2, and we will provide Russia and the other treaty parties with formal notice that the United States is withdrawing from the INF Treaty effective in six months pursuant to Article 15 of the treaty,” he continued.

The U.S. has publicly accused Russia of violating the treaty since 2014 during the Obama administration by fielding a cruise missile known as the 9M729. The agreement, signed by then-President Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, bans nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

Russia has repeatedly denied violating the treaty, leading to an impasse in diplomatic talks aimed at bringing Moscow back into compliance.

“We provided Russia an ample window of time to mend its ways and for Russia to honor its commitment,” Pompeo said. “Tomorrow, that time runs out.”

Pompeo on Friday accused Moscow of “jeopardizing” U.S. national security with its violations.

“Russia has jeopardized the United States’ security interests and we can no longer be restricted by the treaty while Russia shamelessly violates it,” Pompeo said.

Friday’s announcement was expected. Trump signaled last October that the U.S. would withdraw from the treaty, citing Moscow’s violations as a key reason for doing so. In December, Pompeo gave Moscow 60 days to come back into compliance before the U.S. would suspend its commitments.

While current and former officials broadly agree Russia has violated the treaty for years, the U.S. move has nevertheless triggered concerns about the impact on the global strategic environment.

Arms control advocates in particular worry withdrawing from the INF Treaty could trigger a Cold War-style arms race, thereby upending stability in Europe and elsewhere.

“Flipping over the negotiating table and storming out of the room may have worked in real estate, but when you’re dealing with nuclear treaties, the risk of misplaying your hand isn’t a failed business venture – it’s an arms race and possibly nuclear war,” Derek Johnson, executive director of Global Zero, said in a statement. “The administration’s decision does nothing to make America safer and does not bode well for the future of nuclear arms control.”

Pompeo pushed back on those fears Friday when questions by reporters, suggesting Russia’s violations had themselves spurred the risk of an arms race.

“The very risk that you identified is the one that we are suffering from today,” Pompeo said.

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