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    'INF Treaty is More Important Than US-Russia Bilateral Relations' – Scholar

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    US President Donald Trump is set to suspend his country's obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Bloomberg reported, citing two officials familiar with the matter, that the Pentagon had sent a notification to the Senate Armed Services Committee about a withdrawal in six months.

    White House National Security Adviser John Bolton called the treaty outdated and said it doesn't address the rising threat from China. An unnamed White House official, previously cited by Bloomberg, noted that Washington will suspend the treaty unless Moscow destroys its ground-launched cruise missiles, associated equipment and launchers that allegedly violate the accord by Saturday.

    In October, President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw the US from the treaty. However, he later moved to delay the decision. Last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that Washington was giving Russia two more months to return to compliance with the treaty. Moscow has repeatedly denied that its weapons are in violation the 1987 pact.

    Radio Sputnik has talked about the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Götz Neuneck, head of the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Disarmament, Arms Control and Risk Technologies and who is also deputy director of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg.

    Sputnik: How significant is this US decision to withdraw from the treaty and why do you think it is coming at this time?

    Götz Neuneck: These are two fundamental questions. I think Mr Bolton, as the new security adviser pushed the announcement to withdraw for several reasons; you have just quoted him that the treaty is outdated. If the treaty is outdated, then it is useful to listen to proposals on how to modernise the treaty. This has not yet happened. It is only a blame-game of accusations and both the US and Russia are not capable to solve these reciprocal allegations.

    READ MORE: Russia Deploying Additional 9M729 Missiles as US About to Leave INF — Report

    And this seems to show that both countries are not so much interested in preserving the framework of the INF Treaty, which is of outstanding importance for the Europeans and this is, I think, the situation. There is still time after suspension for six months to come clean, to find a reciprocal way to get out of this crisis, but indeed time is running out and we need a more flexible and more constructive way to deal with the whole issue.

    Sputnik: Regarding the timing, it is very interesting to note that the violations that the US is basing this decision on have actually been an issue for many years. So why do you think it is now that they are saying this?

    Götz Neuneck: I don't know. You have to ask the perpetrators; you have to ask the people who are running this business. I don't know actually. Indeed, Russia had enough time to give more information about this possibly non-compliant cruise missile. And the Russian government cooperatively made a static display one week ago, which helped to understand the logic and the technical issues, but that is certainly not enough.

    Transparency is fine, but we need reciprocal verification. We need reciprocal visits from American and Russian experts to the military assets where the missiles are located or will be located one day. And this didn't happen. So there is a lack of cooperation between the US and Russia on this and there is, of course, a lot of mistrust, but you do not solve a crisis if you only point with a finger at the other side.

    Sputnik: It seems that Russia has also pointed the finger at the US side and said that they are not happy with certain military technology that the US has and [they] are also accusing the US of being in violation.

    Götz Neuneck: Indeed, and this is a reason why I am speaking about reciprocal verification. Reciprocal means that the US also should provide data and could, for example, invite Russian inspectors to its missile defence sites. The Russian government says these so-called launch canisters could also be equipped with offensive missiles, which have longer range and a range which is forbidden by the INF Treaty.

    READ MORE: US Has Full NATO Support on INF Withdrawal — Trump

    And so it would be important, not only to have visits, [but] to modify these kinds of systems. From the American point of view, they say this object 9M729 can fly longer ranges than only these 500 km. And that is a technically complicated debate, because it is not easy to determine the range of a cruise missile. It has a different flight profile; it could have different engines, fuel [which] could, of course, extend the range. So these are technical [and] quite important matters, but neither the US nor Russia [have] had a really constructive way to handle that and to solve the problem.

    Sputnik: Angela Merkel has said that if indeed the US decides to pull out of the treaty — and it looks like that is going to be the case — she will use that six-month period for further discussions. Do you think there is much hope that Germany, or other allies of the US, would be able to assert pressure on the United States to stay within the guidelines of that treaty?

    Götz Neuneck: As well as on Russia, to explain, you know, what is the intention of the disputed systems, what is the production, for what reason [have] these two battalions [been] deployed? So I mean these are important questions and, of course, that could be solved. But now the problem is we have only a six-month timeframe to solve that. And this problem hasn't been solved for four years. So, many people say, you know, what should change here? I think the Europeans, which are mostly the victims after the INF Treaty is gone, should really strengthen their efforts and voices to put some kind of pressure on both sides to sit together and to [have] a serious debate, and a serious discussion and serious mechanisms to solve that problem. The INF Treaty is much more important than the bilateral relations between the US and Russia.

    READ MORE: Moscow: Russian Hypersonic Weapons Eliminate Threat From US Exit From INF Treaty

    It would give a green card for all other countries to propel, to accelerate the development of medium-range ballistic missiles. And we should be very careful in skipping treaties, which have been dismantling around 3,000 nuclear weapons and which tried to find a solution for a long-term problem, which also ended the Cold War. I think the time is not yet over, but the time is running out definitely. And if the US government is ignorant about proposals which came from the scientific realm, I might say then also the US bears some kind of responsibility [for] that.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Götz Neuneck and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

    Related:

    Germany’s Merkel Vows to Continue INF Nuclear Arms Talks
    Russia Deploying Additional 9M729 Missiles as US About to Leave INF – Report
    New INF Deal Unlikely With Trump in Office, But Worth a Try - Ex-US Diplomat
    Moscow: No Evidence of INF Violations as US Suspends Obligations Under Treaty
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    Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), missile, United States, Russia
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