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

Russian military servicemen at the Iskander M Missile complex near Moscow on Jan 23 during a briefing on 9M729 cruise missile. Moscow insists that the disputed missile is allowed under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces pact with Washington.
Russian military servicemen at the Iskander M Missile complex near Moscow on Jan 23 during a briefing on 9M729 cruise missile. Moscow insists that the disputed missile is allowed under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces pact with Washington.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Moscow will not initiate disarmament talks till Washington has 'matured enough', says Putin

MOSCOW • Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday said Russia was suspending its participation in a key Cold War-era missile treaty in a mirror response to a US move the day before.

Moscow and Washington have long accused each other of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement.

United States President Donald Trump last year announced plans to withdraw unless Russia fulfilled its obligations.

"Our American partners have announced they are suspending their participation in the deal, and we are also suspending our participation," Mr Putin said of the agreement.

He said during a televised meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu that Russia would no longer initiate talks with the US on disarmament.

"We will wait until our partners have matured enough to conduct an equal, meaningful dialogue with us on this important topic," he said.

Brokered by former US president Ronald Reagan with last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty ended a superpower build-up of warheads. It banned ground-launched missiles with a range of 500km to 5,500km.

 
 
 

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

Mr Trump said last Friday that Washington was starting a process to withdraw from the agreement in six months. He said he would like to "get everybody in a big and beautiful room and do a new treaty", but in the meantime, the United States "can't be put at a disadvantage".

The US in December gave Moscow a 60-day deadline to dismantle missiles it said breached the agreement. But Moscow has insisted that the disputed 9M729 missile is allowed under the treaty.

Mr Lavrov yesterday repeated Russian accusations that Washington itself has been in violation of the deal for many years. Mr Putin, meanwhile, said Russia would seek to develop medium-range missiles in response to what he said were similar projects in the US.

Mr Lavrov at yesterday's meeting also 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 the US and Russia, expires in 2021.

China's Foreign Ministry said yesterday the US should resolve its differences with Russia through dialogue instead of withdrawing from an important nuclear arms control agreement.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 03, 2019, with the headline 'Russia suspends N-treaty with US in tit-for-tat move'. Print Edition | Subscribe