US to scrap Cold War weapons deal
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was due to announce the withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) deal around three months after Donald Trump revealed his intention to ditch the Cold War agreement, signed by then-president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The agreement forced each superpower to dismantle more than 2,500 missiles and kept nuclear-tipped cruise missiles off the European continent for more than 30 years.
Washington’s move comes before a deadline today (Saturday) for Russia to destroy all of its ground-launched cruise missiles, 9M729s, and their equipment and launchers.
The 9M729 was first tested in 2014 at a range that violated the pact and Moscow deployed the weapon in 2017. In October last year, Nato declared Russia in violation of the INF.
Nato is particularly concerned about the deployment of nuclear missiles in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland and Lithuania and are both members of the military alliance.
While much of Nato and the US Congress hoped to preserve the INF to stem the proliferation of ground-launched, intermediate-range nuclear missiles, the Trump White House claimed Russia had been breaking the agreement for years.
Hawkish US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the treaty was outdated and failed to address the rising threat from China.
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had warned nations to prepare for the treaty’s imminent collapse.
“The Russians still aren’t in acknowledgement that they are in violation of the treaty. The only way [Russia] can get the system back into compliance is to destroy the system,” Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Andrea Thompson said last week. “Destroy the missile. There is no way to alter it, there is no way to change it, there is no way to adjust the fuel cycle.”
The INF treaty outlaws the deployment of ground-launched missiles with a range of 500-5,500km. Russia denied Trump’s allegations and said it was the US that was in violation.
“Unfortunately, there is no progress. On February 2, the US will stop fulfilling its obligations under the treaty,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told state television. “This is a serious step.”
Pompeo said in early December that Washington was giving Moscow two more months to get back in compliance with the treaty after Trump held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and appeared to step back from an immediate withdrawal.
Russia’s military might is seen as vital to the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Picture credit: Wikimedia