Trump to pull US out of nuclear treaty with Russia

Katrina Manson — Financial Times Oct 22, 2018

Bolton TrumpDonald Trump said he will pull the US out of a Cold War nuclear treaty with Russia that bans land-based missiles that can put either country within range of the other.

“We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” he told reporters on Saturday in reference to the 1987 intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty, which covers missiles that can reach up to 3,420 miles and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.

Mr Trump, who said withdrawal would mean the US could develop the weapons, said Russia had been violating the treaty for years.

Mr Trump gave no timeline for withdrawal. “We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to,” he said. But he said the US would consider capping its nuclear weapons development if it could make a new arrangement with both Russia and China, which is not a signatory to the deal.

“But if Russia is doing it and if China is doing it, and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable,” he said. Moscow has denied it is breaking the treaty and repeatedly accused the US of violating its terms.

John Bolton, Mr Trump’s national security adviser and a hawk on Russia, is due to visit Moscow to meet senior Russian officials on Monday to discuss the treaty and other subjects of contention between the two countries.

A senior administration official told a small group of reporters on Thursday that the Trump administration was also looking at renegotiating another nuclear treaty between the US and Russia, the 2010 New Start treaty, which caps the number of nuclear warheads each country can have and is due for renewal in 2021.

“We don’t have a definitive US position yet, but there are several considerations including renegotiation,” said the official, who added another option would be to agree an extension, but that would be “unlikely”.

Alexei Pushkov, a Russian senator, said Mr Trump’s statement would result in “returning the world to the Cold War.”

“Such an exit would be the second most powerful blow inflicted on the world’s entire system of strategic stability,” he added.

“The first blow was America’s withdrawal from the anti-ballistic missile treaty in 2001. Once again the initiator of the treaty withdrawal is the US.”

Franz Klinsevich, a member of the defence and security committee of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said the US was “trying to drag Russia into an arms race.”

“In short, not only Russia but the whole world has been given a new and dangerous challenge. They want, like the Soviet Union at one time, to be drawn into an arms race. It will not work. I have no doubt that our country will be able to guarantee its security under any circumstances,” he told reporters.

UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson blamed Russia for the breakdown of the treaty, which was signed by former US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, insisting that Britain stood “resolute” behind the US.

“Our close and long-term ally, of course, is the United States and we will be absolutely resolute with the United States in hammering home a clear message that Russia needs to respect the treaty obligation that it signed,” said Mr Williamson, who added that the Kremlin was making a “mockery” of the agreement.

“We, of course, want to see this treaty continue to stand but it does require two parties to be committed to it and at the moment you have one party that is ignoring it. It is Russia that is in breach and it is Russia that needs to get its house in order.”