UPDATED 7:40 AM PT — Mon. Oct. 22, 2018
A cornerstone U.S.-Russian nuclear arms treaty appears to be falling apart amid bitter accusations of alleged violations from both sides.
Over the weekend, Russia’s Vladimir Putin said he believes U.S. deployment of missile defense systems in Eastern Europe over the past 15-years contradicts the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty — also known as INF.
“When it comes to Europe, we are talking about offensive infrastructure being created there,” said Putin. “We’re talking a violation from the U.S. side of the articles of the 1987 INF Treaty.”
Putin’s remarks come in response to President Trump saying Moscow has not held up their part of the bargain.
“We’ve honored the agreement, but Russia has not unfortunately honored the agreement,” the president told reporters. “So, we’re going to terminate the agreement, we’re going to pull out.”
The INF treaty was signed back in 1987 to aid mutual disarmament and better U.S.-Russian relations at the end of Cold War.
However, the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe over the past 20-years has prompted Russia to move its missiles closer to its western border, leading the two countries to where they are today.
“Now it could be worse than the Cold War, because Putin belongs to a generation that hasn’t seen a major war — these people aren’t as much fearful of war as the people of Brezhnev’s Politburo,” commented political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin.
President Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton will visit Moscow yet again next week in what some see as a last-ditch effort to save the agreement.
The Russian side has claimed U.S. accusations of treaty violations lack evidence. The Kremlin also challenged President Trump’s claims of America’s full compliance with the accord despite repeated calls for talks.
“The most plausible assessment is that Russia is in violation of the INF treaty. We call on Russia to address our serious concerns.”
— Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General
Some military experts have pointed out that there is but one clear beneficiary of this ongoing diplomatic rift.
Mainland China has produced hundreds of intermediate range missiles since the INF went into effect in the late 1980s. While Russia and the U.S. have been engaged in mutual blame, Beijing extended its influence and military presence far beyond its national borders.
“We are concerned about the militarization of the features in the South China Sea,” stated U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis.
A U.S. withdrawal from the INF could reportedly take place before the end of the year.