US bolts Cold War missile treaty as Russia warns of arms race

Hugh Fox
February 2, 2019

President Donald Trump's decision to begin the process of withdrawing the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty will end an arms control agreement with Russian Federation that has been a centerpiece of European security since the Cold War.

Some experts believe the collapse of the INF treaty could undermine other arms control agreements and speed an erosion of the global system created to block the spread of nuclear arms. "It serves the interests of our security and European security", Ryabkov said.

"We will provide Russian Federation and the other treaty parties with formal notice that the United States is withdrawing from the INF treaty, effective in six months".

Brokered by then USA president Ronald Reagan and last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to address a risky build-up of warheads in Europe, the treaty has banned ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. Some analysts worry its demise could fuel a new arms race. -Russian relations, which already are arguably at the lowest point in decades, and debate among US allies in Europe over whether Russia's alleged violations warrant a countermeasure such as deployment of an equivalent American missile in Europe.

"We simply can not tolerate this kind of abuse of arms control and expect arms control to continue to be viable as a national security tool", added the second official.

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The U.S. alleges that Russia's 9M729 ground-launched missiles violate the INF restriction on midrange nuclear forces. Once announced, the formal withdrawal process takes six months.

Even apart from the issue in the Pacific, however, Russian ambitions in eastern Europe make their violations a very large concern for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. On Friday the United States president announced that Washington will initiate the process of withdrawal from the INF Treaty on 2 February and suspend all obligations under the accord.

"The United States imposed a 60-day period during which we had to fulfill their ultimatum", the Sputnik news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying after talks with Thompson.

Pulling the plug on the INF pact, however, risks aggravating relations with European allies, who share the administration's view that Russian Federation is violating the treaty but who have not endorsed a USA withdrawal.

The treaty came about during the Cold War, when the United States and Soviet Union would manipulate each other's nightmares of nuclear annihilation in order to maneuver for advantage in times of relative peace.

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The President said: "We can not be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other". Other officials said the treaty could still be saved if Russian Federation reverses course and returns to compliance, but that window of opportunity will close in six months when the American withdrawal is due to take effect.

The move, meant to penalize Russian Federation for noncompliance, is likely to alarm the global community, particularly Europe, and cause fears that the U.S. and Russian Federation could enter a new nuclear arms race.

He went on: "Instead of putting the full force of the White House behind a negotiation to fix the agreement, the Administration is willing to let this critically important treaty collapse". They met on the sidelines of a meeting of the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members - the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain - all nuclear powers. Washington asked to test the missile's range, but Moscow refused and offered a testing scenario USA officials found unacceptable.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a Washington think tank, said he sees little chance the treaty can be saved.

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