Donald Trump's national security adviser is to hold two days of talks in Moscow after the US president announced his intention to withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty. Mr Trump's announcement that the US would leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty brought sharp criticism from Russian officials and former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the treaty in 1987 with Ronald Reagan. Mr Trump said Russia has violated terms of the treaty that prohibit the US and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying ground-launched nuclear cruise missiles with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles. Russia has repeatedly denied allegations that it has produced and tested such a missile.
US national security adviser John Bolton and Russian president Vladimir Putin will meet on Tuesday. On Monday, Mr Bolton meets foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said that leaving the treaty "would be a very dangerous step". It would "cause the most serious condemnation from all members of the international community who are committed to security and stability", he said.
‘Facing full chaos’
Konstatin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said that a US withdrawal from the treaty would mean “mankind is facing full chaos in the nuclear weapons sphere”.
“Washington’s desire to turn back politics cannot be supported. Not only Russia, but also all who cherish the world, especially a world without nuclear weapons, must declare this,” Mr Gorbachev said.
British defence secretary Gavin Williamson said the UK stands “absolutely resolute” with Washington on the issue and called on the Kremlin to “get its house in order”. German foreign minister Heiko Maas said Mr Trump’s announcement “raises difficult questions for us and Europe”, but noted that Russia has not cleared up allegations of violating the treaty. The prospect of withdrawing from the INF adds to the substantial tensions between Washington and Moscow, including allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and sanctions imposed over Russia’s involvement in the eastern Ukraine conflict.
On Friday, the US announced criminal charges against a Russian for alleged attempts to influence next month's midterm elections. The treaty helps protect the security of the US and its allies in Europe and the Far East, but has constrained the US from developing new weapons. The US will begin developing them unless Russia and China agree not to possess or develop the weapons, Mr Trump said. China is not a party to the pact. "We'll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say 'let's really get smart and let's none of us develop those weapons', but if Russia's doing it and if China's doing it, and we're adhering to the agreement, that's unacceptable," he said.
Mr Trump did not provide details about violations but in 2017, White House national security officials said Russia had deployed a cruise missile in violation of the treaty.
Earlier, the Obama administration accused the Russians of violating the pact by developing and testing a prohibited cruise missile. Russia has repeatedly denied that it has violated the treaty and has accused the US of not being in compliance. – AP