WASHINGTON – Russia is “in material breach” of a landmark arms control treaty and the United States will withdraw from the pact in 60 days unless Russia comes back into compliance, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday.
President Donald Trump had already signaled his intention to pull out of the 1987 arms control treaty but had not put a firm deadline on a withdrawal. Pompeo announced the 60-day window at a NATO meeting in Brussels, calling Russia’s actions part of a “larger pattern of lawlessness.”
” … We either bury our head in the sand or we take common-sense action in response to Russia’s flagrant disregard for the express terms of the INF Treaty,” Pompeo said during a news conference at NATO Headquarters Tuesday.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said last month there was no way for Russia to salvage the treaty and suggested the U.S. would pull out quickly. Pompeo moderated that position on Tuesday, a shift intended to address concerns from European countries that the U.S. withdraw would spark a new arms race and leave them vulnerable to Russian aggression.
“Our European partners appreciate that extra time,” Pompeo said. “They asked for an extended period … And I will tell you, as you speak to the other 28 ministers who are here today, there is complete unity around this.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States will suspend its obligations under a landmark nuclear treaty in 60 days in response to Russia’s alleged violations of the pact. (Dec. 4)
The INF 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. Russia has denied it’s violating the treaty.
In a statement released Tuesday, NATO foreign ministers said they “strongly support” the U.S. conclusion that Russia is in material breach of the treaty, pointing to its development of a missile system known as the 9M729.
That system “poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security,” the NATO ministers said, urging Russia to come back into compliance. “It is now up to Russia to preserve the INF Treaty,” the statement said.
Pompeo said he would welcome such a move by Russia.
“We’ve talked to the Russians a great deal. We’re hopeful they’ll change course, but there’s been no indication to date that they have any intention of doing so,” he said.
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. They fear the U.S. withdrawal would increase instability in Europe and across the world.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg the 29 NATO allies would “collectively develop responses” if the treaty is jettisoned, but he declined to elaborate.
Democrats in Congress said the Trump administration’s decision was counterproductive and would further isolate the U.S. Three top Senate Democrats sent a letter to Trump on Monday urging him to reconsider.
“It takes the focus away from Russia’s transgressions and malign behavior and instead feeds a narrative that the United States is willing to shred our commitments unilaterally without any strategic alternative,” says the letter, signed by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Mark Warner, D-Va. They are respectively the top Democrats on the Foreign Relations, Armed Services, and Intelligence committees.
“Additionally, it allows Russia to expand the production and deployment of its intermediate range missile system, the 9M729, which will further menace Europe,” the Democratic trio wrote.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.