US exit from arms control pact a threat to world security, says Russia

Trump claims Moscow has violated 1987 deal limiting strategic weapon development

 US national security adviser John Bolton (second from right): US president Donald Trump has said his county was unilaterally pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces  Treaty. Photograph: Russian security council handout/EPA

US national security adviser John Bolton (second from right): US president Donald Trump has said his county was unilaterally pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Photograph: Russian security council handout/EPA

 

The Kremlin denounced US plans to withdraw from a landmark arms control pact with Russia on Monday, saying the move would undermine global security and spark a renewed arms race.

Donald Trump announced that the US would walk away from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty on Saturday, saying Russia had repeatedly violated the accord of 1987 that limits strategic weapons development.

“The US won’t allow Russia to go and do weapons we’re not allowed to do,” the US president said at a rally of his supporters in Nevada.

Russia has demanded an explanation from John Bolton, the US hawkish national security adviser, who began two days of talks in Moscow on Monday.

The collapse of the INF treaty would “deal a blow to world security and stability” and “force Russia to take steps to guarantee its own security”, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on Monday.

Russia categorically rejected US allegations that it had breached the INF, he said: “Russia was and remains committed to this agreement.”

Gorbachev and Reagan

Signed by then Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and US president Ronald Reagan in 1987, the INF has been a central pillar of architecture for more than 30 years, prohibiting land-based nuclear and conventional missiles with a range of 500km to 5,500km.

However, the US has accused Russia of developing a cruise missile known as the 9M729 that violates the range restrictions stipulated in the INF treaty. For its part,Russia alleges that US missile defence systems deployed in Europe to counter a potential threat from Iran could be used to fire weapons at its territory.

Mr Trump’s decision to cancel the INF faces opposition within the US state department. Several Russian officials suggested that Mr Bolton might clarify Mr Trump’s position on arms control and even be open to negotiation.

Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the Russian security council, held talks with Mr Bolton on Monday, but no details of the meeting were disclosed. The US security adviser is expected to meet Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Yuri Ushakov, the Kremlin’s security adviser, before he leaves Moscow on Tuesday night.

‘Dangerous step’

The US withdrawal from the INF treaty would be a “very dangerous step”, said Sergei Ryabkov, Russian deputy foreign minister, and would draw serious condemnation from all members of the world community.

It would take the US six months to fulfil all the procedures necessary for exiting the INF, and the process had not even begun,” Mr Peskov said. “There has been an expression of intent, but so far it has not been confirmed with concrete action.” There was a hypothetical risk that US withdrawal from the INF could derail negotiations for the renewal of the 2010 New Start treaty with Russia, that limits the deployment of strategic nuclear warheads and their delivery systems, he said.

Mr Ryabkov said Mr Trump’s announcement was a “form of blackmail”, intended to wring concessions from Russia.

The EU urged the US and Russia to remain engaged in a dialogue to preserve the INF treaty and ensure its implementation. “The world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and, on the contrary, would bring even more instability,” the EU said in a statement on Monday.