US pulls out of INF nuclear treaty with Russia

Aug 2, 2019
Washington:  The US on Friday officially withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty it signed with Russia during the Cold War and invited China to be a part of a new arms control pact, which may include other countries with powerful military forces.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the US’ official withdrawal from the treaty, six months after he said that Russia had violated the terms of the pact by failing to destroy the SSC-8 or 9M729 ground-launched, intermediate-range cruise missile.

“Russia is solely responsible for the treaty’s demise,” Pompeo said.

“Over the past six months, the US provided Russia a final opportunity to correct its noncompliance. As it has for many years, Russia chose to keep its noncompliant missile rather than going back into compliance with its treaty obligations,” he added.

The Novator 9M729 cruise missile (designated by NATO as SSC-8) weighs 1,700 kg and covers ranges beyond 500 kg, which the US says, violates the treaty.

However, tensions between the two sides over the treaty are not new. Both Washington and Moscow have been accusing each other for years of violating the treaty, which was signed in 1987 and prohibits the two countries from manufacturing, deploying and testing short-range (500-1,000 km) and medium-range (1,000-5,500 km) missiles.

In the statement, Pompeo said that Washington “remains committed to effective arms control that advances US, allied, and partner security”, Efe news reported.

He said that US President Donald Trump wishes to start “a new chapter by seeking a new era of arms control that moves beyond the bilateral treaties of the past”.

“Going forward, the US calls upon Russia and China to join us in this opportunity to deliver real security results to our nations and the entire world.”

Meanwhile, Russia firmly laid the blame with the US.

“On August 2, 2019 the Treaty between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America on the elimination of medium and short-range missiles, signed in Washington on December 8, 1987, was terminated at the initiative of the American side,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry said.

NATO supported Washington’s decision and also blamed Russia for the deterioration of the pact.

“Today, the INF Treaty ceases to exist because Russia has deployed the SSC-8 missile system,” said the Alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“They can reach European cities with only minutes of warning time. And they lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict. All NATO Allies agree that these missiles violate the INF Treaty,” he added.

Trump announced his intention to pull out of the treaty in October 2018 and since then has indicated that China was an important factor in that decision, the report said.

China is not part of any disarmament treaty and currently controls the “largest and most diverse missile force in the world, with an inventory of more than 2,000 ballistic and cruise missiles,” Harry Harris, then the head of US Pacific Command, told the American Senate in April 2017.

With the INF dead, the Trump administration is already preparing to upgrade its military capabilities: the Pentagon has asked Congress for $10 million in its fiscal 2020 budget to develop the missiles banned so far by the treaty.IANS