The ever evolving relationship between the United States and Russia has taken another distressing turn this week. After President Trump cast doubt on Russia’s compliance with a Cold-War era missile treaty, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the US would no longer comply with the treaty if Russia didn’t honor their agreement.
That announcement, which was made official on Friday, was immediately echoed by Russia. President Vladimir Putin responded by saying Russia would pull out, too, and would begin missile development.
“Our American partners have announced they are suspending their participation in the deal, and we are also suspending our participation,” Putin said. “We will wait until our partners have matured enough to conduct an equal, meaningful dialogue with us on this important topic.”
Putin also signaled Russia’s intention to begin creating new missiles.
“For years Russia has violated the terms of the intermediate range nuclear forces treaty without remorse,” Pompeo said. “Russia has refused to take any steps to return real and verifiable compliance over these 60 days.”
“The United States will therefore suspend its obligations under the INF treaty effective February 2nd.”
The Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was meant to curtail the immediate threat to our allies in Europe. While the treaty did little to disuade other countries from developing missiles, it was effective at ending tensions between the US and The Soviet Union.
Just who is in violation of the treaty remains uncertain. While the Trump administration maintains the Russians are not in compliance, Moscow has invited in foreign observers to verify their actions. Moscow, likewise, is pointing the finger back at the US and arguing that we are the ones who aren’t holding up our end of the deal.
Putin is stressing that any new development the Russians undertake will be modest. They will not, he said, “be drawn into a costly new arms race.”
European leaders, meanwhile, are caught in the middle. These missiles woudn’t have the range to make it across the Atlantic, but the could target anything in Europe.
The INF is more than 30 years old. The deal was signed by US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. The treaty effectively banned nuclear missiles that had a range between 315 miles to 3,415 miles.
The deal resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals, but put no restrictions on other major military actors such as China.
Is this the start of a new arms race? Maybe not.
“We stand ready to engage with Russia on arms control negotiations,” Trump said in a statement, “and, importantly, once that is done, develop, perhaps for the first time ever, an outstanding relationship on economic, trade, political, and military levels.”