Putin orders pull-out from cold war nuclear arms treaty

US suspended INF participation in February after accusing Russia of violating 1987 pact

Vladimir Putin has asked his parliament to approve legislation formally withdrawing Russia from a nuclear arms control pact with the US that has been a cornerstone of global security since the cold war.

The US suspended participation in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in February after accusing Russia of developing missiles prohibited under the accord. Russia immediately followed suit, but denied that it had violated the treaty.

Mr Putin submitted a Bill to the Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, on Thursday that will enshrine Russia’s withdrawal from the INF treaty in law. Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said lawmakers would begin the approval process on June 18th when the first of three required debates was set to take place.

Valentina Matvienko, the speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of the parliament, urged lawmakers to adopt the legislation without delay. Russia had not sought to terminate the INF, and had no choice but to react to "the conditions imposed on us", she added.


Building weapons

When the US withdrew from the INF, Mr Putin pledged that Russia would begin building weapons previously banned under the treaty, but would not deploy them unless America did so first. Russia wanted to avoid being dragged into a costly arms race and was open to negotiating arms control disputes with the US in the interests of global strategic stability, he said.

The text of the Bill submitted to the parliament on Thursday gave the Russian president powers to revive the INF if necessary, signalling that Mr Putin might be open to compromise.

Mr Trump has said that any new international arms control regime should embrace new nuclear powers such as China

Arms control is expected to be on the agenda when Mr Putin meets US president Donald Trump for talks at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, which takes place on June 28th and 29th. Russia and the US need to discuss the future of the new START strategic arms reduction treaty limiting the development of long-range ballistic missiles that is set to expire in 2021. However, Mr Trump has said that any new international arms control regime should embrace new nuclear powers such as China.

Deep-seated mistrust

Meanwhile, Russia and the US appear locked in an escalating dispute over alleged arms control violations that highlights deep-seated mistrust between the two sides.

Vladimir Shamanov, the head of the Duma's defence committee, lashed out at the US this week after a top US defence official raised questions about Moscow's compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty that Russia has ratified. The statement by Lieut Gen Robert P Ashley "could not have been more irresponsible" and spoke to a "systematic decline in the professionalism" of the US military, Mr Shamanov told the Interfax news agency.

“Nuclear tests cannot be carried out secretly,” he said.