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US blames Russia over ending of a major Cold War-era nuclear arms deal

This comes after Washington launched the process to pull out of the INF treaty this year.

US Russia Arms Treaty President Ronald Reagan (right) shakes hands with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev after the two leaders signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987 Source: Bob Daugherty via PA Images

THE US HAS blamed Russia for the ending of a major Cold War-era nuclear arms deal.

This comes after Washington launched the process to pull out of the INF treaty this year. 

The treaty – concluded in 1987 by then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev — limited the Cold War powers’ medium-range missiles, both conventional and nuclear.

“On August 2, 2019, at the initiative of the US side, the treaty between the Soviet Union and the US on the elimination of their medium-range and shorter-range missiles … was terminated,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement released today: ”Russia is solely responsible for the treaty’s demise”.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg similarly blamed Russia for what he described as repeated blatant violations of the treaty.

Stoltenberg said members of the 29-nation alliance “regret that Russia showed no willingness and took no steps to comply with its international obligations”.

Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov earlier called on the United States to implement a moratorium on deploying intermediate-range nuclear missiles, now that the deal is dead.

“We have suggested to the US and other NATO members to consider announcing a moratorium on the deployment of intermediate-range missiles,” Ryabkov told the TASS news agency.

“This moratorium would be comparable to one already announced by Vladimir Putin, saying that if the United States does not deploy this equipment in certain regions, then Russia will also refrain from doing so,” he added.

G20 summit in Osaka Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump Source: DPA/PA Images

Washington has long accused Moscow of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) deal, a charge Russia denies.

Ryabkov also questioned NATO promises not to deploy nuclear missiles in Europe.

“So far, NATO members have assured us that there are no plans regarding the possible deployment of such nuclear equipment,” he said. 

“But such assurances cannot be taken for granted… the Alliance has repeatedly violated its own promises in the past and changed its own plans.”

What’s next? 

Washington has complained for years that the arms control playing field was unfair.

US officials argued that not only was Russia violating the treaty and developing prohibited weapons, but that China also was making similar non-compliant weapons, leaving the US alone in complying with the aging arms control pact.

Now, the US is free to develop weapons systems that were previously banned.

The US is planning a test flight of such a weapon in coming weeks, according to a senior administration official, who was not authorised to publicly discuss the weapons development and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The current Pentagon budget includes $48 million for research on potential military responses to the Russian violations of the INF treaty, but the options do not include a nuclear missile.

The official downplayed the test and said it was not meant as a provocation against Russia.

Because the United States adhered to the treaty for 32 years, the country is “years away” from effectively deploying weapons previously banned under the agreement, the official said yesterday.

Includes reporting by - © AFP 2019 and The Associated Press

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