Russia Threatens to Build New Missiles After Trump Suspends Nuclear Treaty

By Zachary Stieber

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country would start developing new missiles as he announced Russia’s suspension of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty on Feb. 2.

The United States announced on Feb. 1 that it was suspending its obligations from the pact, which was signed in 1987 amid the Cold War, due to Russia repeatedly violating the treaty.

The pact prohibited both nations from possessing short- and mid-range ground launches missiles.

“The United States has fully adhered to the INF Treaty for more than 30 years, but we will not remain constrained by its terms while Russia misrepresents its actions,” President Donald Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. “We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other.”

Putin responded by saying Russia would also withdraw, at least temporarily, from the treaty.

“Our American partners announced that they are suspending their participation in the treaty, and we are suspending it too,” Putin said on Saturday, reported the British Broadcasting Corporation. “All of our proposals in this sphere, as before, remain on the table, the doors for talks are open.”

Putin’s comments came just hours after NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg told the broadcaster that all other European countries supported the United States.

“All [European] allies agree with the United States because Russia has violated the treaty for several years. They are deploying more and more of the new nuclear-capable missiles in Europe.”

US President Donald Trump (R), looks at Russia's President Vladimir Putin
President Donald Trump (R), looks at Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as they take place for a family photo, during the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires, on Nov. 30, 2018. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)
Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, answers a question from the media during a meeting with Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan at the Pentagon in Washington on, Jan. 28, 2019. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

While Russia has denied violating the accord, Stoltenberg said that the six months that the United States gave Russia to get back into full compliance with the treaty should be taken advantage of by Russia. The United States said that Russia should destroy the missiles that are allegedly in violation of the pact.

NATO said in a statement on Friday that it was backing the United States.

“Unless Russia honors its INF Treaty obligations through the verifiable destruction of all of its 9M729 systems, thereby returning to full and verifiable compliance before the U.S. withdrawal takes effect in six months, Russia will bear sole responsibility for the end of the Treaty,” the NATO declaration states.

American officials made more than 30 attempts over the past six years to bring Russia to compliance. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Feb. 1 that Moscow has refused to take any steps to comply with the requests. In December, Pompeo gave Russia 60 days to return to compliance with the treaty. He noted at the time that European allies have lobbied for the additional time in order to mount a diplomatic campaign to return Russia to compliance.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a news briefing at the State Department in Washington on Feb. 01, 2019. Citing Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Pompeo announced that the United States will withdraw in 180 days from the treaty, which has been a centerpiece of nuclear arms control since the Cold War. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Russia’s violation puts millions of Europeans and Americans at greater risk,” Pompeo said on Friday. “It aims to put the United States at a military disadvantage and it undercuts the chances of moving our bilateral relationship in a better direction.”

“It’s our duty to respond appropriately,” he added. “When an agreement is so brazenly disregarded and our security is so openly threatened, we must respond.”

The United States alleges that Russia’s 9M729 missile is in violation of the INF treaty because it operates in a prohibited range. The treaty prohibits Russia and the United States from deploying ground-launched missiles with ranges of 300 to 3,400 miles.

news briefing dedicated to cruise missile systems
Journalists and military attachés attend a news briefing, organized by Russian defense and foreign ministries and dedicated to cruise missile systems including SSC-8/9M729 model, at Patriot Expocentre near Moscow, Russia, on  Jan. 23, 2019. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Russia denies the allegation, saying that the missile’s range is a few miles short of 300 miles. Washington asked to test the missile’s range, but Moscow refused and offered a testing scenario U.S. officials found unacceptable.

Trump said that the United States will now move forward to respond to Russia’s deployments.

“We will move forward with developing our own military response options and will work with NATO and our other allies and partners to deny Russia any military advantage from its unlawful conduct,” Trump said.

Russia made a last-ditch attempt to preserve the treaty and displayed the disputed missile on Jan. 23 as proof, which American officials rejected.