Russia, U.S. fail to find common ground during talks over INF, faltering Cold War-era missile pact

January 17, 2019

President Trump’s senior arms control adviser said Wednesday that Russian officials have refused to destroy a new missile system allegedly in violation of a landmark bilateral weapons agreement, putting the U.S. on course to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty starting Feb. 2.

Andrea Thompson, the Trump administration’s under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, said U.S. and Russian officials failed to “break any new ground” while debating the missile system during discussions held Tuesday in Geneva, Switzerland, multiple outlets reported.

“We explained to our Russian counterparts specifically what they would need to do in order to return to compliance in a manner that we can confirm, verifiable destruction of the noncompliant system,” Ms. Thompson told reporters afterward, according to The Guardian.

“Based on yesterday’s discussions and corresponding rhetoric today, we see no indication that Russia would choose compliance,” Ms. Thompson added, Reuters reported.

Mr. Trump threatened last year to leave the INF over Russia’s alleged noncompliance, and his administration subsequently announced the U.S. would start being the six-month-long process of withdrawing unless Russia made changes by Feb. 2.

Signed by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, the INF set the stage for the Cold War’s conclusion by banning land-based missiles capable of reaching a distance of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

The Trump administration maintains Russia violated the INF by developing the 9M729, a nuclear-capable cruise missile system, and has demanded its destruction.

Moscow insists the missile system is in compliance with the agreement, and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said Wednesday that Moscow offered to let U.S. experts inspect the missile system but was rebuffed.

“To see the missile does not confirm the distance that missile can travel, and at the end of the day that’s the violation of the treaty,” Ms. Thompson said, The Guardian reported.

Mr. Gorbachev, 87, said last year that he believed that the U.S. would pose a “dire threat to peace” and initiate “a new arms race” by leaving the INF.

“Naturally, we are not going to turn a blind eye to the deployment of American missiles, which present a direct threat to our security. We will have to take effective countermeasures. However, Russia, as a responsible and sensible country, has no interest in a new arms race,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.

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