Russia responds to Trump's threat to end nuclear arms treaty

NEWS 22.10.2018 17:45
Source: REUTERS/JAMES LAWLER DUGGAN

The Russian government has said it would be forced "to take measures" if the United States began developing new missile systems, ratcheting up the rhetoric after US President Donald Trump said he would ditch a Cold War-era nuclear arms treaty.

Trump told reporters on Saturday that he intended to withdraw the country from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), signed by the Soviet Union and United States in 1987 during the final years of the Cold War.

The agreement has helped eliminate thousands of land-based missiles from the US and Russia, and Trump's plans have raised concerns of a renewed arms race between the two nations.

Trump said he was pulling out of the treaty because Russia has “been violating it for many years.” US and NATO officials have long criticized Russia for testing a cruise missile that they say is banned under the accord.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday strongly denied Russia was in violation of the treaty. He relayed Russian President Vladimir Putin's statement that it was the United States that “dilutes” the agreement by deploying anti-missile systems that can also be used to launch short- or medium-range missiles.

“Russia is and has been devoted to the clauses of the agreement, and we think the intention of the US to withdraw is, of course, concerning because such steps, if taken, can make the world a more dangerous place,” Peskov told reporters.

The Cold War agreement saw thousands of missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles destroyed, and banned the development and testing of such weapons.

Suggestions of a new arms race between the US and Russia have been brewing over the past two years, since Russia deployed a cruise missile in what US officials said was an INF treaty violation.

But both countries may have something to gain by ditching the agreement. Withdrawing from the treaty would allow the US to develop a missile similar to the one that Russia has tested. Conversely, the announcement could also allow Russia to blame the United States for the treaty's demise, while pursuing an arsenal of nuclear missiles more freely.

The two countries also share some grievances over the treaty. Trump on Saturday cited China's missile arsenal as another reason for scrapping the accord, a concern that Peskov echoed in his remarks Monday.

“There are still problems around this treaty and the President has said that in the past,” Peskov said, referring to Putin.

“Many countries in Asia and other countries are developing these systems, which can be qualified as short- and medium-range missiles. But nevertheless, Russia and USA are still two key countries responsible for the world's stability and security.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he had not seen Trump's decision come through official channels.

Former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the treaty in 1987 with then-US President Ronald Reagan, criticized Trump's plan as “unacceptable” and “very irresponsible,” Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Trump, who has withdrawn the US from several international accords, made the announcement ahead of US national security adviser John Bolton's visit to Moscow. Bolton met with his counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, on Monday.

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