Putin says Russia will follow the US and withdraw from Cold War-era nuclear missile pact and build new hypersonic weapons – as he accuses Trump of being too ‘immature’ for ‘meaningful’ talks
- Vladimir Putin said on Saturday in Moscow he would exit the Cold-War era pact
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the US were pulling out on Friday
- Putin said the Kremlin would have to wait until their partners ‘matured enough’
- The Gorbachev-Reagan treaty kept intermediate range missiles out of Europe
President Vladimir Putin says he is suspending Russian participation in a landmark Cold War-era missile treaty in response to the US announcement yesterday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Friday that the US would no longer comply with the treaty which kept intermediate range missiles out of Europe, beginning as soon as Saturday.
Not to be outdone Putin stated today: ‘Our American partners have announced they are suspending their participation in the deal, and we are also suspending our participation.’
He continued: ‘We will wait until our partners have matured enough to conduct an equal, meaningful dialogue with us on this important topic.’
Russian President Vladimir Putin at his televised meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to announce his withdrawal from the INF treaty on Friday
President Donald J. Trump with First Lady Melania Trump and their son Barron en route to the ‘Southern White House’ in Florida yesterday
Putin made the statement at a televised meeting with foreign and defence ministers Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu that Russia would no longer initiate talks with the US on disarmament.
Putin also said that Russia will start working on creating new missiles, including supersonic ones.
Pompeo threatened on Friday America would ‘terminate’ the treaty by Saturday if Russia did not come into compliance with it.
Speaking at the State Department he said: ‘For years Russia has violated the terms of the intermediate range nuclear forces treaty without remorse.
‘Russia has refused to take any steps to return real and verifiable compliance over these 60 days.
‘The United States will therefore suspend its obligations under the INF treaty effective February 2nd.’
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But Moscow has long insisted it does not violate the agreement, and last month invited reporters and foreign military attaches to a briefing on the disputed weapons system.
Lavrov on Saturday repeated Russian accusations that Washington itself has been in violation of the deal for many years.
At the meeting, Putin said Russia would seek to develop medium-range missiles in response to what he said were similar projects in the US.
But he told the ministers that Russia would ‘not be drawn into a costly new arms race’.
Russia would only deploy intermediate- and short-range missiles in Europe or elsewhere in answer to similar moves from the US, he added.
Putin has previously threatened to develop nuclear missiles banned under the INF treaty if it is scrapped.
European leaders have voiced fears over the consequences of the treaty’s demise and called on Russia to address concerns before the United States formally leaves in August.
At odds: Putin’s forces are accused by Trump’s administration of having a missile system which breaches the INF treaty
‘The United States will therefore suspend its obligations under the INF treaty effective February 2nd,’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday morning
Signed in 1987 towards the end of the Cold War by then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty bans ground-launched missiles with a range of between 315 miles to 3,415 miles.
The deal resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals, but put no restrictions on other major military actors such as China.
In a statement issued on Friday, Trump suggested ties could improve markedly if Russia were willing to compromise on arms control, saying all sides must live up to such agreements.
‘We stand ready to engage with Russia on arms control negotiations … and, importantly, once that is done, develop, perhaps for the first time ever, an outstanding relationship on economic, trade, political, and military levels,’ he said.
But the withdrawal could lead to the U.S. developing new nuclear weapons of the type which were stationed in Europe in the 1980s to huge public controversy – and potentially stationing them on the continent again.
A senior official cited prior US efforts to negotiate with Russia. ‘We have had a series of discussions at the highest levels,’ the official said.
‘There was even an effort to arrange at highest level, President Putin and President Trump, that President Trump made the decision to cancel because of Russia’s absolutely unlawful and flagrant violation of international law with respect to the of seizing 24 Ukrainian sailors,’ the official said, referencing the cancelled formal meeting in Buenos Aires.
Pioneering moment: The INF was signed in 1987 by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan and banned ground-based cruise missiles with ranges from 315 miles to 3,415 miles
Stumbling block: The Russian Novatar 9M729 ground-based cruise missile system is accused by the U.S. of breaching the INF treaty which Russia denies. The U.S. now says it will pull out of the treaty as soon as this weekend after talks to resolve the standoff failed
Possible Russian threat: The Iskander-M missile launcher system is part of Russian efforts to step up their armament which the U.S. says is in breach of the INF treaty
Deadly load: A quasi-ballistic missile being loaded into an Iskander-M system by Russian troops at a firing range
The US side called off that formal meeting in protest of Russia’s firing on Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Straight incident.
However, it was revealed this week that Trump and Putin did meet privately in Buenos Aires, speaking for up to 15 minutes, the Financial Times reported, citing a Russian government official. The report did not state that they spoke about the missile treaty.
A few hours before Pompeo’s announcement, the NATO Western security alliance issued a statement saying it would ‘fully support’ the US withdrawal notice.
Speaking before Pompeo’s announcement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized the importance of using the six months window to keep talking.
Senator Bob Menendez, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Trump failing to grasp the importance of arms control treaties or of having a wider strategy to control the spread of nuclear weapons.
‘Today´s withdrawal is yet another geo-strategic gift to Vladimir Putin,’ he said.
‘America really wants to develop new weapons systems which are in breach of this treaty,’ Konstantin Kosachyov, senior Russian lawmaker, wrote on social media yesterday, saying the alleged Russian violation of the treaty had been a convenient pretext.
The Trump administration had forecast its withdrawal from the 1987 pact, citing concerns that Russia wasn’t honoring it and that it didn’t include China, which has engaged in its own missile program.
An administration official said President Donald Trump was to have met with with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin about the missile treaty, although the formal meeting was called off over Russia’s actiosn in the Kerch Straight incident. Here Trump and Putin stand next to US First Lady Melania Trump ahead a meeting in Helsinki in July 2018
America’s exit kicks in within a 60-day period, which will be followed by a six-month period to withdraw from the landmark Cold War agreement.
Leaving the treaty would allow the U.S. to develop longer-range conventional land-based missiles than it currently has – but which China is currently developing because it was not part of the banning treaty.
The treaty was signed in 1987 as a breakthrough in reducing nuclear tensions.
It banned the U.S. and the then Soviet Union from having ground-based missiles, whether nuclear or conventional, which led to the US getting rid of its nuclear land-based cruise and Pershing II missiles.
Public protests greeted the missiles being stationed in Europe and the Soviets saw them as an escalation of Cold War tensions.
HOW U.S. MISSILES LED TO PROTEST IN EUROPE IN THE 1980s – AND TOOK THE WORLD CLOSE TO THE NUCLEAR BRINK
Both the U.S. and the Soviets expected that if they went to war, Europe would be their battleground.
By the early 1980s, the U.S. under Ronald Reagan was outspending the Soviets and introducing dramatically improved new weapons in the air and on the ground.
In particular, the Soviet SS-20 medium-range nuclear missiles, launched from mobile carriers, were seen as the biggest threat to NATO forces if there were to be an exchange of weapons.
Nuclear missiles which could match their destructive power were a priority and the Pershing II was developed which could destroy underground bunkers and silos and reach Soviet territory in just six minutes – making them both undetectable and capable of largely killing off the Soviet ability to respond.
But moving the missiles into the places where they would be used in battle created a whole new dimension of conflict for the U.S. and its NATO allies – this time with peace protesters who made their deployment the focus of their rage.
Target: The land-based nuclear cruise missiles brought to the UK sparked public protests when they were deployed to the USAF base at Greenham Common west of London in 1983
Women’s protests: Women formed a peace camp at Greenham Common from the time it was identified as the host for the cruise and Pershing missiles and remained there long afterwards. In December 1982 one of their protests was a human chain around its perimeter
Blocking tactic: Anti nuclear protesters from the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp tried to stop cruise missiles arriving by stopping access to its main gates
Beginning in 1983, two deployments in particular were to become infamous flashpoints.
In the UK, the U.S. Air Force base at Greenham Common, Berkshire, to the west of London, would be used for 160 medium-range nuclear cruise missiles, and a smaller number of Pershing II rockets. RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire would receive 64 cruise missiles.
In Germany, three bases – Neu-Ulm, Mutlangen and Neckarsulm – would receive a total of 108 Pershing IIs.
But in both countries the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament launched huge and widespread protests.
Focus: The Perishing II missile was deployed in 1983 to German bases in the face of huge public anger, with demonstrations of hundreds of thousands who saw it as a threat to West Germany’s existence
Cold war welcome: In West Germany there were protests regularly against the missiles and their deployment. They entered active duty in 1983 and by 1987 a deal for their destruction was done
In Germany, Mutlangen became the focal point, while in Greenham Common, a peace camp of women against nuclear weapons sprang up at the perimeter. Attempts to move munitions were met with sit-down protests on roads outside.
In Bonn, then the capital of West Germany, as many as 400,000 people took part in one anti-Pershing protest, part of a day of demonstrations across Europe, while other protests saw a human chain from U.S. headquarters in Stuttgart to the gates of Mutlangen.
1983 also saw one of the most dangerous moments of the Cold War when NATO’s Able Archer war games, which involved activating troops and giving dummy instructions to fire nuclear weapons, were misunderstood by the Soviets.
Soviet threat: An SS-20 preserved in Russia shows the weapon which the Pershing II and cruise missiles were designed to counter. The SS-20 rocket launched multiple warheads and could reach all of Western Europe from Soviet-controlled territory including East Germany
They thought the exercise was really preparations for a first strike with the new Pershing arsenal part of the plan.
The Soviets ordered its nuclear arsenal to be prepared for action and placed bombers on high alert.
If NATO forces under U.S. command had moved to an increased state of readiness, the Soviets could well have launched their own nuclear weapons.
Spy Oleg Gordiesky later wrote an account of the tense moments, which ended when Able Archer concluded on November 11 1983.
What peace protesters had not realized was that behind the scenes, the U.S. had made an offer in the late 1970s to the Soviets, that if it agreed to get rid of its SS-20s, the U.S, would withdraw the Pershings and the cruise missiles.
By 1986, the Soviet Union was lead by Mikhail Gorbachev, and a deal began to take shape.
By September 1987, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed by Reagan and Gorbachev in Washington D.C.
It eliminated all the weapons being protested against in the space of four years, leaving just a handful of mementos in museums.
Now however, its future appears doomed.
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