President Donald Trump on Friday said the U.S. is suspending its involvement in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and would start the process of withdrawing entirely in six months.
“For far too long, Russia has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad,” Trump said in a statement.
The U.S. will “suspend” INF Treaty obligations starting Saturday and begin withdrawing from the treaty over the course of six months “unless Russia comes back into compliance by destroying all of its violating missiles, launchers, and associated equipment,” the statement said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also announced Friday that the treaty “will terminate” if Russia continues to violate it.
The INF Treaty prevents the U.S. and Russia from possessing any land-based cruise missiles that can strike within a 500 to 5,500 kilometers — 310 to 3,410 miles — range.
The deal signed in 1987 by President Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev was primarily designed to keep ground-based nuclear weapons out of Europe.
Russia has been in violation of the Cold War era arms control agreement for more than five years. The U.S. gave Russia 60 days to return to compliance in December when Pompeo announced at a NATO Foreign Ministers meeting that Russia was in “material breach” of the treaty.
“We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other,” Trump’s statement said.
The statement added that NATO allies of the U.S. are standing behind the decision to withdraw from the agreement “because they understand the threat posed by Russia’s violation and the risks to arms control posed by ignoring treaty violations.”
“Allies fully support this action,” said a statement from NATO following Trump’s announcement.
“We urge Russia to use the remaining six months to return to full and verifiable compliance to preserve the INF Treaty,” the statement said. If not, “Russia will bear sole responsibility for the end of the Treaty.”
U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he also supports the planned withdrawal from the treaty, and the U.S. would consult with NATO allies during the process.
“Russian actions represent a material breach of the treaty, and it is abundantly clear: the United States is the only country limited by the INF Treaty,” Risch said. “The time has come to set the treaty aside and develop alternative avenues toward the security the treaty once provided.”