Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Friday that the US is pulling out of a treaty with Russia that's been a centerpiece of arms control since the Cold War. The American withdrawal, expected for months, follows years of unresolved dispute over Russian compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty, per the AP. The 1987 pact was the first arms control measure to ban an entire class of weapons: ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 310 miles and 3,400 miles. Russia denies that it has been in violation. What you need to know:
- Pompeo said in December that Washington would give Moscow 60 days to return to compliance—a deadline that expires on Saturday—before it gave formal notice of withdrawal, with actual withdrawal taking place six months later. That technically leaves a small window for saving the treaty. However, in talks this week in Beijing, the US and Russia reported no breakthrough in their dispute.
- US withdrawal raises the prospect of further deterioration in US-Russian relations, which already are arguably at the lowest point in decades, and debate among US allies in Europe over whether Russia's alleged violations warrant a countermeasure such as deployment of an equivalent American missile in Europe. The US has no nuclear-capable missiles based in Europe; the last of that type and range were withdrawn in line with the INF treaty.
- US officials also have expressed worry that China, which is not party to the treaty, is gaining a significant military advantage in Asia by deploying large numbers of missiles with ranges beyond the treaty's limit. Leaving the INF treaty would allow the Trump administration to counter the Chinese, but it's unclear how it would do that.
- During remarks at a news conference in Bucharest, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said there are no signs of getting a compliance deal with Russia. "So we must prepare for a world without the INF Treaty," he said.
(Vladimir Putin won't be happy