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In Tit-For-Tat Move, Putin Announces Russian Suspension Of INF Treaty


Russian President Vladimir Putin also said Russia should avoid being drawn into a new and costly arms race.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also said Russia should avoid being drawn into a new and costly arms race.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia has suspended its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, one day after the United States made a similar announcement.

Putin met in Moscow on February 2 with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to discuss Russia's reaction to the long-expected U.S. move.

"We will do as follows," Putin said during the meeting. "We will come up with a tit-for-tat response. Our American partners have announced the suspension of their participation in the treaty, so we will suspend as well."

On February 2, Washington said it had formally notified Russia and other treaty parties of the United States' intent and suspended its obligations under the INF.

Putin ordered Lavrov not to begin any new INF talks with the United States, saying Moscow will wait to see if Washington responds to any of Russia's earlier proposals on saving the agreement.

"Over the past several years, we have seen that our partners do not support our initiatives," Putin said. "On the contrary, they are constantly looking for certain pretexts to dismantle the global security system."

Meanwhile, he said the Defense Ministry will begin developing new nuclear-capable missiles, including supersonic ones.

He added that Russia should avoid being drawn into a new and costly arms race and said Moscow would not deploy any new weapons unless the United States did so first.

Lavrov said he believes the U.S. suspension of the INF Treaty jeopardizes other arms-control agreements, including the New START pact, which is set to expire in 2021.

Lavrov also accused the United States of violating the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) by participating in nuclear-weapons exercises with NATO-member countries that are not among the five nuclear-armed states under the NPT.

"That is an outright violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty," Lavrov told Putin.

The foreign minister also said Washington had "lost any interest" in the possibility of joining the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The U.S. State Department said in a statement on February 2 that the United States could not be restricted by the treaty while Russia violated it.

"The United States has concluded that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of the Treaty arising from Russia's continued noncompliance have jeopardized the United States' supreme interests," the statement said.

Earlier in the day, Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the Federation Council's International Relations Committee, said Washington had "taken another step toward [the world's] destruction."

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty was part of "the strategy of the United States to get out of its international legal obligations in different areas."

Moscow's reaction comes after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that as a result of what he called years of Russian violations, Washington would no longer abide by the key Cold War-era arms-control pact.

"For years, Russia has violated terms of the INF Treaty without remorse," Pompeo said in a news briefing. "To this day, Russia remains in material breach of obligations."

"The United States will therefore suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty effective February 2," Pompeo said.

"We will provide Russia and the other treaty parties with formal notice that the United States is withdrawing from the INF Treaty effective in six months, pursuant to Article 15 of the treaty."

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 and bans the development, production, and deployment of ground-launched cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The agreement was the first of its kind to eliminate an entire class of missiles.

Pompeo told reporters in Washington that the United States remained open to arms-control negotiations with Russia.

U.S. President Donald Trump issued a written statement saying that "we will not remain constrained by its terms while Russia misrepresents its actions. We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other."

Moscow denies it has violated the treaty and has called on Washington to offer proof of its allegations. Foreign Minister Lavrov on February 2 countered that Washington had violated the treaty by developing combat drones with similar characteristics to the banned ground-based missiles. Putin said U.S. tests of missile-defense weapons also violated the INF agreement.

U.S. officials have expressed concerns that China, which is not party to the INF, has gained a military advantage in Asia by deploying large numbers of missiles with ranges banned by the treaty.

Beijing on February 2 urged Moscow and Washington to come together to preserve the treaty.

"China opposes the United States' move to denounce the treaty and urges the U.S. and Russia to properly settle the differences through efficient dialogues," a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said.

NATO allies issued a statement saying they "fully support" the U.S. decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty.

"All NATO allies support the U.S. decision today to start the withdrawal process, but it will take six months before that process is completed," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the Associated Press.

"We continue, therefore, to call on Russia to come back into compliance and fully respect the INF Treaty,” he added.

The United Nations secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, said he hoped Moscow and Washington use the six-month period to reach a new agreement.

"We have seen the announcement they made today," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. "The secretary-general hopes that the parties will use these six months to resolve their differences. The INF is a very important part of arms-control architecture."

The U.S. action has been expected for months and was virtually assured after last-ditch talks in Beijing on January 31 between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Undersecretary of State Andrea Thompson ended without agreement.

Washington and NATO accuse Russia of breaching the treaty by developing the 9M729 cruise missile, also known as the SSC-8.

The United States first publicly accused Moscow of violating the INF Treaty in 2014. After several years of fruitless talks, Washington began stepping up its rhetoric in late 2017, publicly identifying the missile in question and asserting that Russia had moved beyond testing and had begun deploying the systems.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and The Wall Street Journal
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