US to suspend compliance with INF treaty, withdraw in 6 months

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US to suspend compliance with INF treaty, withdraw in 6 months

The United States will suspend its obligations under a key nuclear treaty. Washington said it’s withdrawing from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty or INF because Moscow has been violating it for years.

The agreement, signed at the height of the Cold War, was aimed at avoiding a nuclear war in Europe.

CGTN’s White House Correspondent Nathan King explains more on the arms treaty.

In 1987, it was a landmark treaty banning some of the most destabilizing weapons of the Cold War. The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty banned any land-based conventional and nuclear missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310-3417 miles).

Fears were that those missiles essentially made a catastrophic, so-called “winnable” nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the U.S. more likely.

The missiles’ short flight times – in some cases around 10 minutes – put nuclear forces in Europe on a hair trigger. The treaty took this strategic option off the table.

Now over 30 years later the U.S. is pulling out.

“For almost six years the United States has gone to tremendous lengths to preserve this agreement and ensure security for our people, our allies and our partners. We have raised Russia’s noncompliance with Russian officials, including at the highest levels of government, more than 30 times. Yet, Russia continues to deny that its missile system is noncompliant and violates the treaty,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a briefing in the State Department.

At issue, a new Russian missile, the 9M729-the “Novator.” Washington claimed it has a range of more than 500 kilometers (310 miles)-a treaty violation. Russia said its range is just below that, and so allowed its deployment.

The Kremlin accused Washington of breaking the treaty, too-citing the 2016 deployment of a land-based ballistic missile defense – the “Aegis Ashore” system – in Romania. In Poland, it’s scheduled to be operational in 2020.

The Trump administration announced its intent to withdraw from the treaty last year. If nothing changes, Washington will withdraw fully by August this year. Moscow said it wants to save the treaty and accused the U.S. of fueling an arm race.

Europe, whose security from Russian nuclear attack has long relied on the INF, has urged both the U.S. and Russia to save the treaty.

“What we definitely don’t want to see is our continent going back to being a battlefield or a place where other superpowers confront themselves,” Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, warned.

But for the U.S., it’s not just about Europe anymore. The INF treaty limited Moscow and Washington in deploying intermediate missiles, but not other nations like China.

Free from the treaty, some U.S. strategists believed it would give Washington more choices in countering Beijing. Others said existing U.S. sea and air systems can do the job without deploying more missiles in Asia-a move that could destabilize the region.

The demise of the INF treaty could have serious effects on upcoming non-proliferation and arms control talks involving other types of nuclear weapons, too.

This was the latest international agreement the Trump administration had decided to abandon following the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate pact and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Eugene Chausovsky on the U.S. withdrawal from the INF treaty

CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke with Eugene Chausovsky, a geo-political analyst, who specializes in Russian foreign policy and strategy. Both the U.S. and Russia have backed out of treaties before, but here’s what he had to say if this one is any different.