Donald Trump has confirmed the US will leave an arms control treaty with Russia dating from the cold war that has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for three decades.
“We’ll have to develop those weapons,” the president told reporters in Nevada after a rally. “We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out.”
Trump was referring to the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which banned ground-launch nuclear missiles with ranges from 500km to 5,500km. Signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, it led to nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles being eliminated, and an end to a dangerous standoff between US Pershing and cruise missiles and Soviet SS-20 missiles in Europe.
US hawks have also argued that the INF treaty ties the country’s hands in its strategic rivalry with China in the Pacific, with no response to Chinese medium-range missiles that could threaten US bases, allies and shipping.
Bolton and the top arms control adviser in the National Security Council (NSC), Tim Morrison, are also opposed to the extension of another major pillar of arms control, the 2010 New Start agreement with Russia, which limited the number of deployed strategic warheads on either side to 1,550. That agreement, signed by Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev, then president of Russia, is due to expire in 2021.
“This is the most severe crisis in nuclear arms control since the 1980s,” said Malcolm Chalmers, the deputy director general of the Royal United Services Institute. “If the INF treaty collapses, and with the New Start treaty on strategic arms due to expire in 2021, the world could be left without any limits on the nuclear arsenals of nuclear states for the first time since 1972.”
Speaking to reporters in Nevada, Trump said: “Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years and I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out.
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