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Trump-Russia nuclear treaty: Alarm over president's 'dangerous' decision to withdrawal from Cold War-era agreement

Decision to suspend 32-year-old agreement central to peaceful relations between two superpowers described by Gorbachev as 'not the work of a great mind'

Joe Sommerlad
Friday 01 February 2019 08:20 EST
Trump says he will declare a national emergency if no deal is reached on border wall

Mike Pompeo has announced the US is suspending its participation from a crucial Cold War nuclear treaty with Russia - triggering fears of a new Cold War-style arms race.

Analysts have expressed fears that an American exit from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces agreement, which banned ground-launched cruise-control missiles when it was signed in 1987, could spark tensions between the old rival superpowers and China, now Asia’s dominant military presence.

The president has meanwhile attacked the FBI's arrest of political fixer Roger Stone and dismissed his recent shutdown talks with Democrats as a “waste of time” in a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times.


Hello and welcome to The Independent's coverage of another busy day in Washington.

Joe Sommerlad1 February 2019 12:12

The Trump administration is poised to announce today that it is withdrawing from a treaty that has been a centerpiece of superpower arms control since the Cold War and whose demise some analysts worry could fuel a new arms race. 

An American withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF), which has been expected for months, would follow years of unresolved dispute over Russian compliance with the pact.

It was the first arms control measure to ban an entire class of weapons: ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 500 kilometres (310 miles) and 5,500 kilometres (3,400 miles). Russia denies that it has been in violation of the terms of the agreement.

US officials also have expressed concerns that China, which is not party to the 1987 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. 

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said in early December that Washington would give Moscow 60 days to return to compliance before it gave formal notice of withdrawal, with actual withdrawal taking place six months later. The 60-day deadline expires on Saturday, and the administration is expected to say as early as Friday that efforts to work out a compliance deal have failed and that it would suspend its compliance with the treaty's terms.

The State Department said Mr Pompeo would make a public statement on Friday morning, but it did not mention the topic. 

Joe Sommerlad1 February 2019 12:26

A US withdrawal would take effect six months after this week's announcement, leaving a small window for saving the treaty.

However, in talks this week in Beijing, the US and Russia reported no breakthrough in their dispute, leaving little reason to think either side would change its stance on whether a Russian cruise missile violates the pact. 

A Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, was quoted by the Russian state news agency Tass as saying after the Beijing talks on Thursday, "Unfortunately, there is no progress. The position of the American side is very tough and like an ultimatum." He said he expects Washington now to suspend its obligations under the treaty, although he added that Moscow remains ready to "search for solutions" that could keep the treaty in force. 

The move 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. 

Joe Sommerlad1 February 2019 12:31

Meanwhile, House speaker Nancy Pelosi has declared that there'll be no "wall money" in any compromise border security deal.

Mr Trump, who in recent weeks has expressed indifference to whether the term "wall" or something else is used, clung with renewed tenacity to the word that became his campaign mantra, declaring, "A wall is a wall."

But in a series of tweets and statements, he issued conflicting messages about what he'd need to declare victory and suggested that merely repairing existing structures along the boundary could still be an option.

Amid signs that President Trump's influence in Congress is waning, he seemed to aim one tweet at his conservative followers. He wrote that Democrats "are not going to give money to build the DESPERATELY needed WALL. I've got you covered. Wall is already being built, I don't expect much help!"

Joe Sommerlad1 February 2019 12:35

The president backing down on the recent shutdown, the longest in US history, saw the government reopened until 15  February, giving lawmakers more time to craft a bipartisan border security compromise.

If there's no deal by then, President Trump has threatened to revive the shutdown or declare a national emergency, which he claims would let him shift billions from unrelated military construction projects to erecting his wall.

He criticised Democrats' negotiating stance so far, telling reporters in the Oval Office that Pelosi is "just playing games" and saying GOP bargainers are "wasting their time." 

Joe Sommerlad1 February 2019 12:47
Joe Sommerlad1 February 2019 12:54

And here's the mighty Chris Baynes on that interview with the "failing" New York Times from the Oval Office, in which the president brands his talks with the Democrats over federal funding for his proposed Mexico border wall "a waste of time".

He was dismissive of Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian election tampering, saying he was "not a target" and rubbished rumours he would not run for re-election in 2020.

Joe Sommerlad1 February 2019 13:10

One more. Here's Sarah Harvard on his deteriorating relationship with Nancy Pelosi, who has emerged as Mr Trump's strongest rival since securing the speakership of the House of Representatives in early January.

Joe Sommerlad1 February 2019 13:20

The president was busy on Twitter yesterday, continuing his tactic of painting America's southern neighbour as a lawless wasteland to justify the need for a wall.

He also praised US Border Patrol for securing a record-breaking drug bust, right when he needed the publicity coup most.

Joe Sommerlad1 February 2019 13:35

Mike Pompeo has now announced that the US will suspend participation in the nuclear arms treaty.

Clemence Michallon1 February 2019 13:37

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