Russia suspends nuclear missile treaty in tit-for-tat with US

Russia vowed Saturday to develop “new types of weapons” as it suspended a Cold War-era nuclear missile treaty with the United States, which pulled back from the pact a day earlier, raising the spectre of a new arms race.

In a high-stakes tit-for-tat with US President Donald Trump, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said: “Our American partners have announced they are suspending their participation in the deal, and we are also suspending our participation.”

And he said Russia would seek to develop medium-range missiles in response to what he said were similar projects in the US.

Russia would “not be drawn into a costly new arms race”, the president said in a televised meeting with foreign and defence ministers Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu, adding it would only deploy intermediate- and short-range missiles in response to similar moves from the US.

“We will wait until our partners have matured enough to conduct an equal, meaningful dialogue with us on this important topic,” Putin added.

On Friday, Trump said Washington would start a process to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement within six months.

Both countries have accused each other of violating the INF arms control agreement concluded between the US and the former Soviet Union in 1987.

On Saturday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev tweeted: “The Russian Government will procure funds and mechanisms for financing R&D and design of new types of weapons in view of the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty and response steps announced by the Russian President.”

He called the US withdrawal “unilateral and totally unprovoked”, and warned it “aggravates the situation in international security and strategic stability. It will certainly receive an effective response”.

Brokered by US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty ended a superpower buildup of warheads that had frightened Europe.

It banned ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres (300 to 3,400 miles).

The deal addressed Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals, but put no restrictions on other major military actors such as China.

Trump had said he would like to “get everybody in a big and beautiful room and do a new treaty”, but in the meantime, the US “can’t be put at a disadvantage”.

– Disputed missile –

The US in December gave Moscow a 60-day deadline to dismantle missiles it said breached the agreement.

But Moscow insists the disputed 9M729 missile is allowed under the treaty.

Lavrov on Saturday repeated accusations that Washington itself has been in violation of the deal for many years, while Russia “tried everything to save the treaty” in several rounds of diplomatic talks.

Russia’s defence ministry, in turn, accused the United States of having taken the decision to withdraw from the INF already “two years before the unfounded public accusations against Russia”.

By 2017, “Washington had not only taken this decision but also had started preparations for the production of short-range and intermediate range missiles prohibited by the treaty”, a ministry statement alleged.

European leaders have voiced fears over the consequences of the treaty’s demise, and have called on Russiato address concerns before the US formally leaves in August.

Beijing also expressed concern Saturday, and called for “constructive dialogue”.

China’s foreign ministry has ruled out the possibility of negotiating a new multilateral pact that includes Beijing.

NATO has said that US allies “fully support” its withdrawal from the pact, and agreed that Russia’s 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile systems violates the treaty.

Lavrov at Saturday’s meeting voiced concerns that Washington’s decision to withdraw from the INF could jeopardise the extension of the New START treaty.

That agreement, which caps the number of nuclear warheads held by Washington and Moscow, expires in 2021.

Source: Seychelles News Agency

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