MOSCOW (REUTERS) - Russia has suspended the Cold War-era Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty after a similar move by the United States, President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday (Feb 2), also instructing the government not to initiate disarmament talks with Washington.
Moscow’s relations with the West have been at their lowest over a number of issues, including Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine as well as allegations of it meddling with the presidential election in the US and being behind a nerve agent attack in Britain.
The row over the INF treaty is yet another twist in Russia’s worsening relations with the US and the West on the whole.
“The American partners have declared that they suspend their participation in the deal, we suspend it as well,” Mr Putin said during a televised meeting with foreign and defence ministers.
The US announced on Friday it will withdraw from the INF treaty with Russia in six months unless Moscow ends what it says are violations of the landmark 1987 arms control pact.
Mr Putin said Russia will start work on creating new missiles, including hypersonic ones, and told ministers not to initiate disarmament talks with Washington, accusing the US of being slow to respond to such moves.
“We have repeatedly, during a number of years, and constantly raised a question about substantiative talks on the disarmament issue, notably, on all the aspects,” he said. “We see, that in the past few years the partners have not supported our initiatives.”
During the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also accused the US of violating the INF and other arms deals, such as the non-proliferation treaty.
Mr Putin said that Russia will not increase its military budget for the new weapons and it won’t deploy its weapons in Europe and other regions unless the US does so.
Meanwhile, China's foreign ministry said on Saturday that the US should resolve its differences with Russia through dialogue instead of threatening to withdraw from the nuclear arms control agreement.
"As an important bilateral treaty in arms control and disarmament, the Intermediate-Range Treaty has great significance in improving relations between major powers, strengthening international and regional peace, and maintaining global strategic balance and stability," China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on its website.
"China is opposed to US withdrawal action and urges the United States and Russia to handle their differences properly through constructive dialogue," the statement said, warning that unilateral withdrawal could trigger "negative consequences".
The ministry added it was not in favour of drawing up a multilateral arms control agreement to replace the INF, saying the issues were too complicated and that existing agreements should instead be maintained and implemented.