Trump is threatening to pull out of a Cold War era nuclear treaty which could have ramifications for nuclear programs around the world, including North Korea.
The US is reportedly preparing to leave the nuclear control agreement signed in the Cold War era with the former Soviet Union, now the Russian Federation.
According to the New York Times, National Security Adviser John Bolton is planning to warn Russian President Vladimir Putin about Washington’s plan on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which was signed in 1987.
“…[N]ational security adviser, John R. Bolton, will warn the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, on a trip to Moscow [October 20] that the United States plans to leave the treaty,” according to the Times sources.
However, there was no final decision made about withdrawing from the INF. US President Donald Trump has made it clear that he wants to withdraw from the INF and other similar arms control agreements.
“Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years,” Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One to leave Nevada after a campaign rally.
Bolton will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kremlin Security Secretary Nikolai Patrushev in Moscow ahead of the meeting between Trump and Putin in Paris on November 11.
US-Russia ties have been under pressure following the accusation that Moscow intervened in the US 2016 presidential election. Russia’s support for the incumbent Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad and the conflict in Ukraine has also strained the US-Russia relationship.
Why Is Washington Withdrawing From the Pact?
In 2014 Washington openly accused Moscow of developing ground-launched missiles, deemed a violation of the 1987 pact. The Secretary of State later said Moscow began deploying those missiles, according to Radio Free Europe.
Russia denied the accusation and instead claimed that some of the elements of the US missile defense system violated the agreement.
The treaty, signed by then US President Ronald Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, is the first arms control agreement that eliminated an entire class of missiles. The INF treaty bans the US and Russia from producing or testing land missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.
Trump accused Moscow of violating the treaty for years and warned that unless Russia and China, which is not an INF signatory, stop developing or possessing nuclear weapons, Washington will ramp up its own nuclear programs.
Generally, the Pentagon supports the INF. However, Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned the NATO member countries that Washington would no longer stay in the treaty if Russia did not remove its ground-launched missiles.
Russia has been accused of developing new missiles, which are in breach of the INF pact, several times in the past few years.
Trump did not give details about the most recent alleged violations, even though in 2017 a national security official at the White House said Russia had deployed the missiles.
Russia Claims US Withdrawal from the INF Treaty ‘Dangerous’
Russia sees the US plan to abandon the 31-year-old treaty as a very dangerous step, as Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov said.
“Unlike our American colleagues, we understand all the seriousness of the issue and its significance for security and strategic stability. If the Americans continue to act as crudely…and unilaterally withdraw from all sorts of agreement and mechanisms from the Iran deal with the International Postal treaty, then we’ll be reduced to taking action in response, including of a military nature. But we don’t want to go that far,” Rybakov said.
Russian Senator Alexei Pushkov said that the US decision to leave the INF treaty is a big blow to all strategic stability systems worldwide. Previously, Washington did the same thing by withdrawing the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001.
“And again the initiator of the dissolution of the agreement is the US,” Pushkov tweeted.
The impact of the withdrawal from the INF could have a serious impact on North Korea, as the US urges the country to denuclearize.
“Why would the North Koreans have any reason to believe in any deal made with this president, with Bolton whispering in his ear,” said Alexandra Bell, a former senior state department official and now senior policy director at the Centre for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation, according to the Guardian.