Thursday April 25, 2024

US pulls out of N-arms control pact with Russia

By News Report
August 03, 2019

WASHINGTON: The United States (US) Friday withdrew from a critical 1987 nuclear arms control treaty with Russia after Moscow refused to destroy a new intermediate-range missile that Washington and its Nato allies said violated the Cold War-era pact.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, six months after the US told Russia that failing to destroy its SSC-8 cruise missile would spark the collapse of the treaty.

US President Donald Trump said any new treaty to counter the buildup of nuclear missiles should include China. "We´d certainly want to include China at some point," Trump told reporters.

"That would be a great thing for the world," he added, hours after his administration formally pulled out of the treaty. Trump said he had talked about a new arms reduction treaty with both countries. China was "very excited... and so was Russia," he said.

"A pact where they reduce and we reduce nuclear, that would be a great thing for the world. I do believe that would happen." Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia will never lose the arms race "because we have already found cost-effective answers to any challenges we face and this will happen once again after the United States' pullout from the INF Treaty," Tass News Agency quoted him as saying.

"I would like to point out that Russia has demonstrated extreme responsibility in its approach to European and global security by declaring a unilateral moratorium on the deployment [of intermediate and shorter range missiles], should it ever create such weapons," Ryabkov added.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Russia was “solely responsible” for the demise of the pact, which was signed by then US president Ronald Reagan and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev at the White House more than three decades ago, reports the international media.

The INF was a landmark treaty that paved the way for a number of arms control pacts between the US and the then Soviet Union. The US spent six years urging Russia to return to compliance with the INF after the Obama administration first raised concerns about the SSC-8 missile, which Washington says has now been deployed in western Russia.

“Over the past six months, the US provided Russia a final opportunity to correct its non-compliance. As it has for many years, Russia chose to keep its non-compliant missile rather than going back into compliance,” Mr Pompeo said.

“Russia’s non-compliance under the treaty jeopardises US supreme interests as Russia’s development and fielding of a treaty-violating missile system represents a direct threat to the US and our allies and partners.”

Franz Klintsevich, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said Moscow would not be bowed by any new sanctions, but warned they would harm global stability: “Washington’s imposition of additional sanctions on Russia will make the chance for normalising Russia-US relations even more hypothetical,” he said.

The Rouble steadily weakened throughout Friday morning and was down 1.6 per cent against the dollar at 3pm local time, when Russia’s benchmark dollar-denominated RTS stock index was trading 3.1 per cent lower — with financial stocks leading the fall.

Lori Esposito Murray, an arms control expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Russia was to blame for the outcome but stressed that the collapse of the INF could return Europe to the “hair-trigger instability” of the 1980s.

“This really is a crossroads in terms of what is going to happen with these nuclear systems. Right now the best hope is to hold the line and keep [current] reductions in place while we try to figure what happens next,” she said.

António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, said the demise of the INF meant “the world will lose an invaluable brake on nuclear war”. It banned nuclear and conventional missiles with a 500-5,500km range, cutting the threat that the Soviet Union and now Russia or the US could fire missiles that would hit their targets in less than 10 minutes.

European members of Nato have swung publicly behind the US decision, but they have also warned against a new arms race between east and west on the continent. There are also fears over whether the US and Russia will be able to extend the New Start agreement on cutting nuclear warheads that comes up for renewal in 2021.

A European Commission spokesperson Friday urged the US and Russia to seek further reductions to their nuclear arsenals. “Given the heightened tensions, we must be careful not to enter the path of a news arms race that would offset the significant reductions achieved after the end of the cold war,” the spokesperson said.

Nato said it had “agreed a balanced, coordinated and defensive package of measures” to ensure its “deterrence and defence posture remains credible and effective”.

The collapse of the INF treaty comes 17 years after President George W Bush abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, as his administration pushed ahead with plans to install a missile defence shield in Europe. Russia has denied US accusations that the SSC-8 missile violates the INF treaty. It says that the US deployment of missile defence capabilities in eastern European states breaches the pact — an argument that Washington denies.

European diplomats say most EU countries would be in range of the new missiles that Russia has deployed in the west of the country. A senior US official said the missiles could target the entire territory of Western Europe.

Europe may now face an uncomfortable choice over whether to host extra US missiles in response to the Russian moves. Deployment of US nuclear weapons in the 1980s triggered public protests in several European countries.

A senior US official said the Pentagon was preparing to conduct a flight test of a conventional (non-nuclear) cruise missile that would be fired from a mobile launcher. He said the Pentagon had “undertaken treaty-compliant research on non-compliant systems” but that the end of the INF would allow the Pentagon to start testing the missile. But he added that the US was “years away from having an effectively deployable capability”.