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U.S. threatens to pull out of nuclear treaty after Russia found in violation

December 4, 2018

BRUSSELS | The Trump administration will begin officially killing a key 30-year-old nuclear treaty with Russia unless Moscow takes clear steps to come back into compliance with the pact within 60 days, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced here on Tuesday.

In a dramatic move expected to set nerves on edge over the prospect of a new Cold War-style arms race, Mr. Pompeo told reporters at NATO headquarters in the Belgian capital that the administration has had enough of what it deems flagrant violations by Russia of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

“The United States today declares Russia in material breach of the treaty and will suspend our obligations as a remedy effective in 60 days unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance,” the secretary of state said.

“It makes no sense for the United States to remain in a treaty that restrains our ability to respond to Russia’s violations,” he said, adding that the Trump administration is also concerned that Russia’s actions are emboldening others not party to the INF such as China and Iran to pursue intermediate-range missiles.

The treaty, negotiated by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, covers only the U.S. and Russia, preventing them from building or deploying missiles and launch systems with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles.

The remarks by Mr. Pompeo, who separately leveled up a blistering speech here Tuesday in defense of President Trump’s lead-from-the-front foreign policy, capped off what officials say has been a weeks-long diplomatic push to get NATO’s other 28 member nations on board with a potential U.S. withdrawal from the INF.

While the prospect of a U.S. pullout from the treaty has caused unease within NATO amid concern it would trigger a new Cold War-style arms race and revive painful battles over whether and where to deploy mid-range nuclear weapons across Western Europe, there have been signs this week that the alliance is embracing the administration’s position.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that time is running out for Russia to comply with the INF, echoing U.S. allegations that Moscow’s new 9M729 missile system is clearly in violation claims the Russians deny.

“We all know that the time is running out, that this is not tenable, that we have an arms control agreement that is only respected by one party,” Mr. Stoltenberg said, referring to the United States. “NATO allies call on Russia to ensure full compliance with the INF treaty in a verifiable and transparent way.”

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