Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces US suspension of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, January 31, 2019

The Trump Administration suspends a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, claiming Moscow’s violations of the accord over the past five years.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday that the US is quitting the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed at the end of the Cold War between the Reagan Administration and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The treaty limits ground-launched nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km.

The Administration has authorized assembly of the first long-range American nuclear weapons since 1991. It did not make clear whether it seeks to replace the INF or to renew the New Start treaty, which brought American and Russian nuclear arsenals to their lowest levels in nearly 60 years. That agreement expires in 2021.

Pompeo said, “Countries must be held accountable when they break the rules. We can no longer be restricted by the treaty while Russia shamelessly violates it.”

He said the US will complete withdrawal from the accord in six months unless Russia destroys its expanding arsenal of intermediate-range missiles and launchers.

Trump has shown little cognizance of the details of the treaties, beyond his admiration for shiny nuclear weapons. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “fucking moron” in 2017 after Trump’s comments to officials.

Trump said later on Friday, “I hope we’re able to get everybody in a big, beautiful room and do a new treaty that would be much better.”

The Administration is planning upgrades of US nuclear weapons over the next 10 years costing $494 billion. The expense rises to $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years.

Early last year the Administration signalled in a nuclear strategy review that it would develop a new warhead for submarine-borne Trident missiles. The National Nuclear Security Administration said Wednesday that the initial order is “on track” for delivery to the Navy by the end of this fiscal year. The number of warheads is secret.

Russia Challenges, NATO Supports

On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, in a meeting with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, “We will come up with a tit-for-tat response. American partners have announced suspension of their participation in the treaty, and we will suspend.”

He proclaimed Russian pursuit of a land-based hypersonic missile with intermediate range: “[The US] has announced research and development works, and we will do the same.”

The Kremlin accused the US of failing to negotiate in good faith. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “On the whole, the reluctance of the Americans to listen to reason and to hold any kind of substantive talks with us shows that Washington decided to crush the treaty a long time ago.”

Putin jabbed, “Let’s wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic, which is extremely important for us, them, and the entire world.”

Former Soviet leader Gorbachev asked, “Do they [the Americans] not know what they are doing?”

But NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg backed Washington:

In public and private comments, Administration officials have indicated that they are pursuing a new approach to revive the treaty for all countries that have intermediate-range nuclear weapons.

That would require China, India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea to accede, as well as Russia.