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Live Updates: Russia Announces INF Treaty Officially Dead as US Exits Agreement

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The Trump administration has decided to fully abandon the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, thus bringing an end to over three decades of strategic stability despite consistent calls from Russia to preserve the accord.

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which prohibited the deployment of ground-based nuclear weapons with a range of 500 to 5,500 km, was terminated starting 2 August at the initiative of the United States, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

"On 2 August 2019 the Treaty between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America on the elimination of medium- and short-range missiles, signed in Washington on 8 December 1987, was terminated at the initiative of the American side", the statement says.

Pompeo Accuses Russia of Being Responsible for the INF Collapse

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has confirmed the US withdrawal from the INF treaty and claimed that Russia "bears sole responsibility" for the collapse of the 1987 accord.

Reuters earlier cited several unnamed senior officials in the Trump administration as saying that the initial test of planned conventional US intermediate-range missile will be conducted in the coming months.

The sources later clamed that Moscow had deployed "multiple battalions" of a Russian cruise missile throughout the country in violation of the pact, including in western Russia, "with the ability to strike critical European targets".

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov earlier called on the United States to implement a moratorium on deploying intermediate-range nuclear missiles, now that the deal is dead.

"We have suggested to the US and other NATO members to consider announcing a moratorium on the deployment of intermediate-range missiles. This moratorium would be comparable to one already announced by Vladimir Putin, saying that if the United States does not deploy this equipment in certain regions, then Russia will also refrain from doing so", he added.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree suspending Moscow's participation in the accord in a mirror response to Washington's move.

Washington Moves to Withdraw Unilaterally - Moscow Hits Back

In October 2018, US President Donald Trump announced his intention to tear up the treaty, having accused Russia of violating the accord and said that the US would start developing weapons banned under the agreement.

At the time, Putin warned that the repercussions of the US decision were unpredictable and could result in a global disaster due to an increasing trend of lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.

The US administration then stated last December that it would suspend its adherence to the accord unless Russia returned to fully "complying" with the treaty within 60 days.

Two months later, Washington announced its withdrawal from the pact in February, accusing Moscow of developing the 9M729 missile that allegedly violates the terms of the international agreement.

Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations that the missile violates the accord, pointing out that the American missile defence systems deployed in Europe can be repurposed for offensive capabilities and therefore are themselves in violation of the treaty.

In a symmetric response, Putin announced that Moscow was also suspending the pact and instructed his ministers to refrain from initiating talks with Washington on the matter and emphasised that the US needed to show readiness for an equal and constructive dialogue. 

US Calls for New Treaty

Trump, who has developed a reputation for scrapping deals and alliances, has repeatedly said he wanted to negotiate a new treaty to replace the old one, even with a greater number of participants, such as China.

"Russia would like to do something on a nuclear treaty and that’s OK with me. They would like to do something and so would I", Trump told reporters Thursday.

The Russian president is not by far the only person to believe that the treaty's collapse would lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the escalation, urging both parties to refrain from dangerous moves.

"When [the treaty] expires tomorrow, the world will lose an invaluable brake on nuclear war. This will likely heighten, not reduce, the threat posed by ballistic missiles. Regardless of what transpires, the parties should avoid destabilizing developments and urgently seek agreement on a new common path for international arms control".

The deal, signed in 1987 by US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, marked the first time the two superpowers — the Soviet Union and the US — voluntarily agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, destroying all nuclear-armed ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (about 300 to 3,400 miles), as well as allowing on-site inspections for verification.

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20:39 GMT 02.08.2019
16:54 GMT 02.08.2019

"The termination of the INF Treaty is seriously detrimental to the international security and strategic stability and it creates preconditions for an arms race in various regions of the world, primarily in Europe", the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said, adding that Minsk regrets Washington's withdrawal and the subsequent demise of the treaty.

According to the ministry, the INF Treaty has made a significant contribution to reducing tensions and building confidence on the European continent through the banning of an entire class of cruise and ballistic missiles, thereby paving the way for practical steps in the field of nuclear disarmament.

15:05 GMT 02.08.2019

"China opposes the United States' withdrawal from the INF Treaty and regrets this decision ... If the US resumes the development and deployment of medium-range missiles after leaving the INF Treaty, it will seriously damage the strategic balance and stability in the world, increase tensions and mistrust, and will have a serious impact on the multilateral arms control process and the international disarmament process, as well as threaten regional peace and security", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing.

Washington is terminating the INF Treaty despite the general protest of the international community, completely ignoring its international obligations and acting according to its policy of unilateral action, she added.

14:27 GMT 02.08.2019

"Nuclear weapons states have a special responsibility to uphold existing international arms control/disarmament treaties. Extension of New START would be a key contribution to preserving strategic stability. A nuclear arms race must be avoided", Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted.

She called the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty a central part of the nuclear arms control architecture that was vital for European security, but blamed Russia for the US decision to pull out of it unilaterally. Russia has suspended its participation in the treaty.

14:00 GMT 02.08.2019

"President Trump has charged this Administration with beginning a new chapter by seeking a new era of arms control that moves beyond the bilateral treaties of the past. Going forward, the United States calls upon Russia and China to join us in this opportunity to deliver real security results to our nations and the entire world", the US State Department said in a statement. 

13:59 GMT 02.08.2019

"Russia showed utmost responsibility for European and global security, declaring, through President Putin's statement, a unilateral moratorium on fielding this type of capabilities, when and if they are developed, until the United States takes a similar step in any region of the world. Therefore, the choice is for the United States. Washington must decide which way they will go", Ryabkov said when asked if a new arms race is unavoidable.

13:08 GMT 02.08.2019

"Poland, together with all Allies, fully supports the decision of the United States to withdraw from the #INFTreaty. It is an understandable reaction to Russian violations of the treaty", the ministry wrote on its Twitter page.

The ministry claimed that Russia was the only responsible party for the collapse of the INF Treaty.

"Russia's lack of willingness to return to full compliance has left the United States with no choice", the ministry added.

10:54 GMT 02.08.2019

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has claimed that Russia caused the collapse of the nuclear treaty, saying that contempt for rules threatens European Security.

10:41 GMT 02.08.2019

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders regrets the termination of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and urges Russia and the United States to prolong the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and engage in a dialogue on stabilisation measures, the ministry said in a statement.

According to the statement, Reynders regrets the termination of the INF Treaty because he considered the accord to be landmark deal that provided Euro-Atlantic security for many years.

"For more than thirty years, this treaty contributed to Euro-Atlantic security through the verifiable destruction of nearly 3,000 conventional and nuclear missiles", the ministry noted.

09:39 GMT 02.08.2019

NATO allies have stated that the alliance will respond in a "measured and responsible way" to "risks posed by the Russian 9M729 missile".

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