WASHINGTON — The United States and Russia suspended a crucial nuclear weapons treaty on Saturday, a move that has sparked concerns of a budding arms race between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers.
The INF treaty, signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, prohibited the development and deployment of ground-launched nuclear missiles with ranges of 310 miles to 3,420 miles. The agreement forced each country to dismantle more than 2,500 projectiles, and kept nuclear-tipped cruise missiles off the European continent for three decades.
In October, Trump said the U.S. would withdraw from the Cold War-era pact, and sent national security advisor John Bolton to personally deliver the decision to the Kremlin. Russia, Trump said, has violated the arms agreement by building and fielding the banned weapons “for many years.”
NATO has also called on Moscow to “return urgently to full and verifiable compliance.” “It is now up to Russia to preserve the INF Treaty,” NATO foreign ministers said in a joint statement.
“Withdrawing without exhausting all available diplomatic options to resolve the compliance dispute makes it more difficult for Washington to control the narrative around the collapse of the treaty, and allows Russia to pursue the development and deployment of intermediate-range systems without restriction,” Abigail Stowe-Thurston, a researcher at the Federation of American Scientists, told CNBC.
“Now that the administration is following through on its decision to withdraw, it is Congress’s responsibility to decide whether to fund the development and deployment of similar systems,” she added.