Russia follows US and suspends nuclear weapons pact

Withdrawal by US and Russia from nuclear deal sparks fears about potential new arms race

A file image of US resident Donald Trump with Russian president Vladimir Putin during a news conference in  Finland in July 2018. Both countries have withdrawn from a cold war nuclear treaty. Photograph: NYT

A file image of US resident Donald Trump with Russian president Vladimir Putin during a news conference in Finland in July 2018. Both countries have withdrawn from a cold war nuclear treaty. Photograph: NYT

 

Russia has suspended the Cold War-era Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty after a similar move by the United States, president Vladimir Putin said on Saturday, also instructing the government not to initiate disarmament talks with Washington.

Moscow’s relations with the West have been at their lowest over a number of issues, including Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine as well as allegations of it meddling with the presidential election in the US and being behind a nerve agent attack in Britain.

The row over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty is yet another twist in Russia’s worsening relations with the United States and the west on the whole.

“The American partners have declared that they suspend their participation in the deal, we suspend it as well,” Mr Putin said during a televised meeting with foreign and defence ministers.

A Russian military serviceman stands near the Iskander M Missile complex during a briefing on the issue of creation ground-based cruise missile 9M729 at Patriot military exhibition center in Moscow region last month. Photograph: EPA
A Russian military serviceman stands near the Iskander M Missile complex during a briefing on the issue of creation ground-based cruise missile 9M729 at Patriot military exhibition center in Moscow region last month. Photograph: EPA

The United States announced on Friday it will withdraw from the INF treaty with Russia in six months unless Moscow ends what it says are violations of the landmark 1987 arms control pact.

Mr Putin said Russia will start work on creating new missiles, including hypersonic ones, and told ministers not to initiate disarmament talks with Washington, accusing the US of being slow to respond to such moves.

“We have repeatedly, during a number of years, and constantly raised a question about substantiative talks on the disarmament issue, notably, on all the aspects,” Mr Putin said.

“We see, that in the past few years the partners have not supported our initiatives.”

No treaty limitations

During the meeting, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov also accused the United States of violating the INF and other arms deals, such as the non-proliferation treaty.

Mr Putin said Russia will not increase its military budget for the new weapons and it won’t deploy its weapons in Europe and other regions unless the United States does so.

The White House confirmed on Friday that the US is suspending its compliance with the (INF treaty and will officially withdraw in six months’ time.

It follows warnings by President Donald Trump last year that the US was reassessing the treaty, which was signed by former president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.

“The United States has fully adhered to the INF treaty for more than 30 years, but we will not remain constrained by its terms while Russia misrepresents its actions,” Mr Trump said, referring to the cold war-era pact.

“We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other. We will move forward with developing our own military response options.”

In a statement, Nato said it strongly supported the United States and called on Russia to “urgently return to full and verifiable compliance”.

But critics saw the move as the latest example of the Trump administration walking away from an international agreement, noting that the suspension will leave the US free to begin developing its own weapons outside the limits prescribed by the treaty.

The treaty, signed as the cold war drew to a close, banned land-based cruise missiles with a range of between 500km and 5,000km. But the US has accused Russia of flouting the agreement, arguing that a missile it deploys near its western border violates the terms of the treaty. - Additional reporting Agencies