Russia follows Trump administration’s lead, pulls out of nuclear arms treaty

Russia says it believes the U.S. suspension of the INF treaty jeopardizes other arms control agreements as well.

In Berlin, Germany, demonstrators on February 1, 2019 protest the imminent end of the INF disarmament agreement between Russia and the U.S.. CREDIT: Paul Zinken/picture alliance via Getty Images
In Berlin, Germany, demonstrators on February 1, 2019 protest the imminent end of the INF disarmament agreement between Russia and the U.S.. CREDIT: Paul Zinken/picture alliance via Getty Images

One day after the Trump administration declared the United States would withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty, Russia followed suit by announcing it would suspend its obligations under the treaty.

On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that as a result of what he called years of Russian violations, Washington would no longer abide by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Russia denies that it is in violation of the treaty and has urged the United States to return to talks to resolve the dispute.

The treaty, signed in 1987, bans land-based ballistic and cruise missiles that can hit targets between roughly 300 and 3,400 miles. The treaty was the first nuclear agreement to ever outlaw an entire class of weapons.


Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday ordered his foreign minister not to begin any new INF talks with the United States, saying the Russian government will wait to see if Washington responds to any of the country’s earlier proposals on saving the agreement.

The Russian government said it believes the U.S. suspension of the INF Treaty also jeopardizes other arms-control agreements, including the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) pact, which is set to expire in 2021.

The U.S. withdrawal from the treaty “could unleash a dangerous and costly new missile competition between the United States and Russia in Europe and beyond,” the independent Washington-based Arms Control Association said Friday.

President Donald Trump’s decision comes as the United States and other countries are working to modernize their nuclear arsenals. The U.S. decision to pull out of the treaty is expected to return the world to the unstable times of 40 years ago, before key nuclear arms treaties had been signed.


Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, criticized Trump for raising the risk of nuclear war.

“The administration’s ideological aversion to arms control as a tool for advancing national security is endangering our safety, as well as that of our allies and partners,” Smith said.

“The risk of miscalculation or misunderstanding is already higher than at any point since the end of the Cold War, and this decision only makes it worse.”

Experts contend the Trump administration decided to withdraw from the treaty because it views the economic, military, and technological development of Russia and China as a threat to U.S. supremacy.

On Thursday, in response to reports that Trump would withdrawal from INF treaty, several senators, including Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), introduced the Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019.

“There’s a reason that kids today don’t do duck-and-cover drills in schools and that nobody has bomb shelters in their backyards anymore,” Merkley, the bill’s lead sponsor, said Thursday in a statement.


“This era of stability is put at great risk by President Trump’s decision to unilaterally pull out of the INF Treaty.”

In 2002, another Republican president, George W. Bush, pulled the United States out of the landmark Antiballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) that it signed with the Soviet Union in 1972. At the time, foreign policy experts at the Brookings Institution called Bush’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the ABM treaty a “foreign policy disaster” because it would lead to Russia abandoning its treaty commitments.

“People like national security adviser [John] Bolton and others have a long history of not liking treaties that constrain the Americans in anyway,” John Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, said Saturday in an interview on CNN.

Under Bush, Bolton was among a number of administration officials pushing for a U.S. invasion of Iraq based on the lie that Baghdad, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, had developed nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction.