The INF Treaty Is Dead. Is New START Next?

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The U.S. announced it would stop observing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty as of Saturday and would withdraw within six months from the pact, a cornerstone of global security since 1987.

"Russia has refused to take any steps to return (to) real and verifiable compliance", Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.

For years, Washington has accused Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

"Our NATO Allies fully support us, because they understand the threat posed by Russia's violation and the risks to arms control posed by ignoring treaty violations".

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty was the first arms control measure to ban an entire class of weapons: ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 500km and 5000km.

"On February 2, the USA will stop fulfilling its obligations under the treaty", Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with state TV broadcast on Friday.

Ministers from the Baltic countries close to Russia's borders - Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - were mostly in support of the USA move and blame Russian Federation. Specifically, Washington wants Moscow to destroy all ground-based 9M729 missiles and their launchers, as well as other associated equipment that allegedly violates the INF Treaty.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called on both sides to stick to the treaty.

The US argues that Russian Federation has jeopardised the INF treaty for years by deploying ground-launched missiles that fall within the banned range of 500km to 5,500km. Russian Federation denies the United States allegations, accusing Washington of making a nuclear war more likely.

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"Allies fully support this action".

There has been widespread speculation that, regardless of compliance issues, the Pentagon feels hamstrung by the terms of the treaty, which does not bind countries whose military capability has risen in the past three decades, particularly China.

"Neither side is showing the flexibility necessary to arrive with an agreement that brings Russian Federation into compliance", he said.

NATO says that if Moscow fails to destroy all new missile systems that Washington insists violate the treaty, "Russia will bear sole responsibility for the end of the treaty".

The American ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, set the rhetorical stage for Washington's withdrawal announcement by asserting Thursday that Russian Federation has been in violation for years, including in Ukraine. "You can negotiate a free trade agreement in five years but disarmament negotiations, they absorb generations of negotiators". Reynders said Friday: "I hope that our American colleagues, including outside the treaty framework, are going to keep working on this dialogue with Russian Federation".

He also questioned the utility of placing ground-based missiles on tiny patches of land in the Pacific when the US military already has the ability to launch missiles from aircraft, ships, and submarines deployed to the region.

A senior United States administration official denied Beijing is a factor.

Mr Rybakov said: "The United States imposed a 60-day period during which we had to fulfil their ultimatum".

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