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Trump administration withdraws from nuclear weapons treaty, accuses Russia of violations

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Trump administration withdraws from nuclear weapons treaty, accuses Russia of violations

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NATO’s secretary-general said Tuesday he is confident that both the Western military alliance and Russia “will act in a respectable way” as the two sides hold drills in the same area in waters off Norway’s coast. (Oct. 30)
AP

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration will end U.S. compliance with a landmark nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday, citing Moscow’s brazen violations of the pact. 

“Russia has jeopardized the United States’ security interests, and we can no longer be restricted by the treaty while Russia shamelessly violates it,” Pompeo said. 

Pompeo said the U.S. would suspend compliance on Feb. 2 and begin a six-month formal withdrawal process. 

Supporters of the move said it was long overdue, after years of trying to cajole Russia back into compliance proved fruitless. The administration’s decision will now free the United States to confront other emerging security threats, principally China’s build up of intermediate-range missiles.

Critics said abandoning the 32-year-old treaty would spark a new arms race, undermine American credibility, and put Europe at risk of Russian aggression.

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The INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty, signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, bars the U.S. and Russia from deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between approximately 310 and 3,400 miles. The U.S. has long accused Russia of violating the pact – stretching back to the Obama administration.

European leaders have also accused Russia of cheating on the agreement, even as Kremlin officials insisted they remained in compliance. In a statement Friday, NATO strongly backed the Trump administration’s move and said Russia was to blame for the U.S. decision. 

“The United States is taking this action in response to the significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security posed by Russia’s covert testing, production, and fielding of 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile systems,” NATO said in its statement. “Allies fully support this action.”

But some in Europe and the U.S. fear the Trump administration’s withdrawal will increase instability in Europe and across the world. European officials have noted that the INF treaty led to the elimination of nearly 3,000 missiles with nuclear and conventional warheads and contributed to the end of the Cold War.

In December, after Pompeo set a deadline for U.S. withdrawal, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg the 29 NATO allies would “collectively develop responses” if the treaty is jettisoned, but he declined to elaborate.

Related stories: 

Trump: U.S. will build up nuclear arsenal after nixing landmark weapons treaty with Russia

Contributing: David Jackson and Kim Hjelmgaard

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