In a speech in Brussels, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would act to kill the INF treaty in “60 days,” writes Martin Banks.
The United States on Tuesday formally accused Russia of violating a major arms control treaty, taking the first step to leaving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty — which could lead to the eventual placement of ground-based cruise missiles in Europe.
Speaking at NATO’s Brussels headquarters, Pompeo said: “The United States today declares it has found Russia in material breach of the treaty and will suspend our obligations as a remedy, effective in 60 days, unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance.”
The decision to “suspend” is key, signaling that the U.S. has not yet made the full decision to withdraw from the agreement. Regardless of this 60-day window, the Trump administration can announce it is withdrawing at any time, but must include a six-month notice period to officially exit the treaty.
The Russian Foreign Ministry denied the allegations, with ministerial spokeswoman Maria Zakharova telling reporters in Moscow on Tuesday that “Russia strictly complies with the provisions of the treaty, and the American side is aware of that.”
The move is not wholly unexpected, as news leaked that U.S. President Donald Trump planned to withdraw from the treaty in October. But the timing had been unclear until Pompeo’s speech.
Pompeo said, “When treaties are broken, the violators must be confronted, and the treaties must be fixed or discarded. Words should mean something. Our administration is thus lawfully exiting or renegotiating outdated or harmful treaties, trade agreements, and other international arrangements that do not serve our sovereign interests, or the interests of our allies.”
He also defended Nato as an indispensable institution, saying,”President Trump wants everyone to pay their fair share so we can deter our enemies and defend people.”
In response, Derek Johnson, executive director of Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, issued the following statement:
“The INF Treaty is worth saving, and there’s is still time to do it if the Trump administration can get its act together. Both Russia and the United States, along with NATO members, have expressed a desire to preserve the agreement. But the U.S. announcing that it ‘hopes’ Russia will change its behaviour without offering to engage Russia directly is not a strategy, it’s a gamble that jeopardises U.S. national security, the transatlantic partnership, and global stability.
“Secretary Pompeo should immediately dispatch his Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and other U.S. officials to meet with and relentlessly engage their Russian counterparts on maintaining the Treaty’s restraints on nuclear arms. A standing negotiating team should meet and present solutions to the United States, Russia and NATO. For the United States and its allies, any reasonable solution that eliminates Russia’s alleged violations should be acceptable — and worth fighting for. If such a solution is identified but rejected by Russia, it will be clear to the world where the blame for this breakdown in arms control truly lies.”
The Author, Martin Banks, is News Editor for EU Political Report.