Putin and Trump

The United States on Tuesday warned Russia it will withdraw from a major Cold War treaty limiting mid-range nuclear arms if Moscow does not dismantle missiles that Washington says breach it within 60 days.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would no longer be bound by the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty unless Moscow withdraws a new system that has threatened to trigger an arms race.

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NATO said it was now “up to Russia” to save the deal, seen by many as an important part of the global arms control architecture, and alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said it was time to prepare for its demise.

“The United States today declares Russia in material breach of the treaty and we will suspend our obligations as a remedy in 60 days unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance,” Pompeo said after talks with fellow NATO foreign ministers.

“Russia’s actions gravely undermine American national security and that of our allies and partners. It makes no sense for the United States to remain in a treaty that constrains our ability to respond to Russia’s violations.”

The US and NATO say Russia’s 9M729 system, also known by the designation SSC-8, violates the INF treaty, which banned ground launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres.

In October, President Donald Trump declared the United States would pull out of the treaty and build up America’s nuclear stockpile “until people come to their senses”.

But on Monday, the US leader said he wants talks with his Chinese and Russian counterparts Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin “to head off a major and uncontrollable Arms Race”.

The INF was a bilateral treaty between the US and the then Soviet Union, so it puts no restrictions on other major military actors like China.