WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump said on Monday that his country is ready to build up its nuclear arsenal, after announcing it is abandoning a Cold War-era nuclear treaty, as Russia warned that the withdrawal could cripple global security.
Mr Trump sparked concern globally at the weekend by saying that he wanted to jettison the three-decade-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed by former US president Ronald Reagan and the last Soviet leader, Mr Mikhail Gorbachev.
In explaining his decision, Mr Trump said Russia had "not adhered to the spirit of that agreement or to the agreement itself".
"Until people come to their senses, we will build it up," he said, referring to America's nuclear stockpile.
"This should have been done years ago. It's a threat to whoever you want. And it includes China. And it includes Russia," the US President continued. "And it includes anybody else who wants to play that game. You can't do that. You can't play that game.
"Until they get smart, there's going to be nobody who's going to be even close to us."
But Russia has warned that abandoning the agreement would be a major blow to global security, and that it would be forced to respond in kind to restore the military balance with the US.
But it signalled that it may be willing to give some ground.
Moscow was ready to work with the US to salvage the agreement, the Russian Security Council said after a meeting between its chief, Mr Nikolai Patrushev, and US National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Mr Bolton, who was due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday, was visiting Moscow in the wake of Mr Trump's announcement last Saturday that he wants to do away with the pact that bans intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said yesterday he expected Mr Bolton to explain the US stance to Mr Putin.
"Of course, there are weak points (in the treaty), but tearing up the agreement without plans for anything new is what we don't welcome," Mr Peskov told reporters on a conference call.
"To first reject the document and then (talk of) ephemeral possibilities to conclude a new one is a dangerous stance."
Signed in 1987, the INF resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals.
On Monday, Mr Bolton discussed the fate of the treaty with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and spent "nearly five hours" in talks with Mr Patrushev, a spokesman for the Russian Security Council told Agence France-Presse.
Speaking after his meeting with Mr Patrushev, Mr Bolton said the Russians had insisted that Moscow did not violate the treaty.
"The position was very firmly announced by Russia that they did not believe they were breaching the INF. In fact, they said, 'You are breaching the INF,'" Mr Bolton said in an interview with Russian broadsheet Kommersant.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the two men discussed bilateral cooperation, the fight against terror and "maintaining strategic stability".
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS