Trump threatens arms race after signaling withdrawal from nuclear agreement with Russia

UPDATE 2 — 8:50 p.m. EDT: Following a meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin Tuesday, National Security Advisor John Bolton told reporters the U.S. will officially announce withdrawal from the INF agreement “in due course,” citing “Russian INF violations in Europe now.”

President Trump will meet with Putin Nov. 11 in Paris on the sidelines at an event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the armistice of World War I.

 

UPDATE — 5:16 p.m. EDT: President Trump said Monday the U.S. will build up its nuclear stockpiles until other countries “come to their senses”.

“It’s a threat to whoever you want,” he continued. “And it includes China, and it includes Russia, and it includes anybody else that wants to play that game.”

According to one nuclear expert, Carnegie Europe’s Tomáš Valášek, U.S. withdrawal from the 1987 nuclear agreement with Russia will either spark an arms race between East and West, or scare Moscow into negotiating a new nuclear treaty with the U.S.

 

President Trump announced Saturday the U.S. would pull out of a 30-year-old agreement with Russia which had drastically reduced the global nuclear threat in the waning days of the Cold War.

Signed in Moscow in 1987 and approved by the Senate in May 1988, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) forbade conventional and nuclear missiles with a range capable of striking each nation.

Citing alleged Russian violations to the pact, Trump announced his intent to end U.S. participation during a campaign stop in Nevada.

“Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement so we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” Trump said to reporters after addressing supporters.

Trump later said the U.S. would consider placing caps on weapon systems if Russia and China would agree to limitations on their arsenals.

Over the past two decades, both the U.S. and Russia have traded accusations of each violating the agreement.

Originally negotiated with the Soviet Union, the landmark 1987 treaty concluded between then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan banned ground-launched medium-range missiles with a range exceeding 3,400 miles.

The treaty also eliminated all nuclear and conventional missiles and delivery systems for weapons with a range beyond 1,000 miles.  The agreement did not include sea-launched missiles.

In the decade which followed the treaty’s signing, the two nations had removed over 2,500 missiles from its arsenals.

Trump’s announcement Saturday drew swift rebukes from the Kremlin and one European ally, Germany.

Declaring the move to ditch the agreement “dangerous”, Moscow stated the U.S. had no basis to accuse Russia of violating the pact and said the gesture may inspire a military response.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev described the U.S. move as a “mistake.”

A decision certain to chill an expected meeting this week between National Security Adviser John Bolton and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Pskov said the decision “raises concerns,” is a blow to global security and that Russia remains committed to the agreement.

Pskov also said Russian leaders would demand answers from Bolton regarding the decision and the Kremlin would work to “restore balance” if the U.S. begins to develop missile technology banned under the agreement.

The second major nuclear-arms agreement terminated by the U.S., President George W. Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001 to pursue the development of the National Missile Defense system.

 

[AP] [Moscow Times] [Reuters] [CNN] [NBC News] [Photo courtesy Reuters/Jonathan Ernst]

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