President Vladimir Putin announced Saturday that Russia will withdraw from a long-standing and critical Cold War-era missile treaty with the United States. Putin’s move came following the Trump administration’s move to withdraw a day earlier.
On Friday President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. would be pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty after accusing Russia for violating the terms of the agreement.
“The American partners have declared that they suspend their participation in the deal, we suspend it as well,” Putin said during a meeting with Russian foreign and defense ministers that was televised on Saturday in Russia.
Putin said Russia will start work on building new nuclear missiles, including hypersonic ones, and told his ministers not to initiate any new disarmament talks with Washington. He accused the U.S. government of being slow to respond to such overtures.
In a statement yesterday Trump had accused Moscow of violating the 1987 treaty with “impunity” by deploying banned missiles. Trump said in the statement that the U.S. will “move forward” with developing its own military response options to Russia’s deployment of banned cruise missiles that could target Western Europe.
“We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other,” Trump said.
Putin and the Russian government have strongly denied any breaches of the treaty, and have repeatedly accused U.S. officials of making false accusations in order to justify its pullout.
The 1987 treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, required the destruction of ground-based missiles with a range of between 310 to 3,410 miles. It also banned the deployment of new missiles.
The agreement stopped the proliferation of nuclear weapons that had become a point of crisis during the Cold War. It also is considered a model for arms control agreements between major powers.
The United States has claimed since 2014 that Russia was violating the treaty, and senior Trump administration officials said on Friday they had tried 35 times through diplomatic communications to convince Russia to get back into compliance with the pact.
“We provided Russia an ample window of time to mend its ways and for Russia to honor its commitment,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday. “Tomorrow that time runs out.”
The collapse of the INF Treaty has raised fears of a new Cold War showdown similar to what happened in the 1980s, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union both deployed intermediate-range missiles on the European continent. These nuclear weapons were seen as particularly dangerous since they take just a few minutes to reach their targets. In such situations there is no time for decision-makers to take steps to stop the missiles from delivering nuclear destruction.
The existence of new intermediate-range missiles increases the chances that there will be a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning.