President Trump has confirmed the US will leave an arms control treaty with Russia dating from the cold war that has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for three decades.
“We’ll have to develop those weapons,” the president told reporters in Nevada after a rally. “We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out.”
Trump was referring to the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF), which banned ground-launch nuclear missiles with ranges from 500km to 5,500km. Signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, it led to nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles being eliminated, and an end to a dangerous standoff between US Pershing and cruise missiles and Soviet SS-20 missiles in Europe.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, a longstanding opponent of arms control treaties, was pushing for US withdrawal. The US says Russia has been violating the INF agreement with the development and deployment of a new cruise missile. Under the terms of the treaty, it would take six months for US withdrawal to take effect.
US hawks have also argued that the INF treaty ties the country’s hands in its strategic rivalry with China in the Pacific, with no response to Chinese medium-range missiles that could threaten US bases, allies and shipping. Bolton and the top arms control adviser in the National Security Council (NSC), Tim Morrison, are also opposed to the extension of another major pillar of arms control, the 2010 New Start agreement with Russia, which limited the number of deployed strategic warheads on either side to 1,550. That agreement, signed by Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev, then president of Russia, is due to expire in 2021.
“This is the most severe crisis in nuclear arms control since the 1980s,” said Malcolm Chalmers, the deputy director general of the Royal United Services Institute. “If the INF treaty collapses, and with the New Start treaty on strategic arms due to expire in 2021, the world could be left without any limits on the nuclear arsenals of nuclear states for the first time since 1972.”
Speaking to reporters in Nevada, Trump said: “Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years and I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out.
“We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and do weapons and we’re not allowed to. We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honoured the agreement but Russia has not unfortunately honoured the agreement so we’re going to terminate the agreement, we’re going to pull out.”
Asked to clarify, the president said: “Unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and they say, ‘Let’s all of us get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons,’ but if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable. So we have a tremendous amount of money to play with with our military.”
Russian state news agencies on Saturday cited a foreign ministry source as saying Washington’s move to pull out of the treaty is motivated by a dream of a single global superpower.
“The main motive is a dream of a unipolar world. Will it come true? No,” a foreign ministry source told Ria Novosti state news agency.
The official said that Russia has “many times publicly denounced the US policy course towards dismantling the nuclear deal”.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
October 23rd, 2018