As Russia continues to outmaneuver the US by developing new ballistic missiles like the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, as well as hypersonic weapons capable of carrying a nuclear payload, President Trump said Saturday that he plans to abandon a 1987 arms-control treaty that has (on paper, at least) prohibited the US and Russia from deploying intermediate-range nuclear missiles as Russia has continued to “repeatedly violate” its terms according to the president, the Associated Press reports.
“We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement,” Trump said Saturday after a campaign rally in Elko, Nevada. “We’re going to terminate the agreement.”
In a report that undoubtedly further complicated John Bolton’s weekend trip to Moscow, the Guardian revealed on Friday that the national security advisor – in what some described as an overreach of the position’s typical role – had been pushing Trump to abandon the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The announcement comes after the U.S. had been warning Russia it could resort to strong countermeasures unless Moscow complies with international commitments to arms reduction under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a pact struck in the 1980s.
When first signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev following their historic 1986 meeting, the INF was touted as an important deescalation of tensions between the two superpowers. But it has since become a flashpoint in the increasingly strained relationship between the US and Russia, as both sides have accused the other of violating its terms.
But for the US, Russia is only part of the problem.
The New York Times reported that the pact has limited the US from deploying weapons to counter the burgeoning military threat posed by China in the Western Pacific, where the country has ignored claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea and transformed reefs into military bases. And since China was never a party to the treaty, Beijing can hardly cry foul when the US decides to withdrawal, especially because Russia is already openly using the treaty as toilet paper.
Speaking at a rally in Elko Nevada, President Trump accused Russia of violating the agreement and said he didn’t want to leave the US in a position where Russia would be free to “go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to.”