Moscow: No Evidence of INF Violations as US Suspends Obligations Under Treaty

by Garry Watts February 2, 2019, 0:39
Moscow: No Evidence of INF Violations as US Suspends Obligations Under Treaty

The United States will suspend its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Friday, blaming Russian Federation for years of non-compliance that he said could escalate into an arms race.

China is reportedly opposed to the possible USA suspension of a nuclear treaty with Russian Federation, because it would chip away at China's advantage in developing missiles.

The dispute is aggravating the worst U.S. -Russia frictions since the Cold War ended in 1991.

The decision to pull out of the Soviet-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty came amid claims from the U.S. that Russian Federation has violated the agreement. Citing the support of NATO over Russian deployment of an offending missile system on the European frontier, Pompeo announced that the United States would officially withdraw from the INF treaty, starting a six-month process that could touch off another arms race. "There is no doubt that that Russian Federation is violating the INF Treaty, but the right path forward is to work to bring them back into compliance, not free them to produce more nuclear weapons". "And it's unfair for the USA to voluntarily restrict itself in a bilateral treaty when one side of that partnership (Russia) is failing to live by its obligations". It was the first treaty to ban an entire class of weapons: ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 500 and 500km.

With the United States released from the treaty's constraints, it could begin to match China's growing intermediate-range conventional force arsenal.

Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said one of the major problems with a USA withdrawal is that there is no alternative in place and "there doesn't seem to be any work in progress to develop one".

There has been widespread speculation that, regardless of compliance issues, the Pentagon feels hamstrung by the terms of the treaty, which does not bind countries whose military capability has risen in the past three decades, particularly China.

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During his press briefing on Friday, Pompeo dodged a question on the fate of the New START deal but said "we're endeavoring to do everything we can to ensure that the risks of proliferation that increase in these massively destructive weapons systems is diminished".

The Europeans are keen to avoid a repeat of a crisis in 1983, when North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies chose to deploy US cruise and Pershing 2 ballistic missiles as negotiations with Moscow faltered over Russia's stationing of SS-20 missiles in Eastern Europe. After several years of fruitless talks, Washington began stepping up its rhetoric in late 2017, publicly identifying the missile in question and asserting that Russian Federation had moved beyond testing, and had begun deploying the systems.

In recent years, the USA and Russian Federation have been accusing each other of violating the arms control agreement amid increasing tension between the two countries.

"This is in reality, under worldwide law, Russia's final chance", a senior administration official said.

Russia's top negotiator on the treaty, deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov, in an interview broadcast Friday insisted Moscow was in compliance.

"Russia consistently refuses to acknowledge its violation and continues to push disinformation and false narratives regarding its illegal missile", she said. Bolton has a much more clear-eyed view of Vladimir Putin and his imperial ambitions than Trump or his previous two predecessors had until they themselves got burned badly enough.

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