President Donald Trump told reporters following a rally in Nevada on Saturday that he planned to pull out of a more than 30-year nuclear arms pact with Russia. The president said not only has Russia not lived up to their end of the 1987 agreement, he claimed the deal has also limited the United States from developing new weapons.
“Russia has violated the agreement. They have been violating it for many years. And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to,” Trump said of the pact, in which both Russia and the U.S. agreed to rid themselves of short-range and intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
According to NBC News, Russia has claimed over the years that it is the United States who has violated the terms of the agreement and has denied any wrongdoing on their part. But Trump insisted that Russia, and even China – who is not actually involved in the agreement – has not abided by the pact’s terms. “If Russia’s doing it, and if China’s doing it, and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable,” Trump said.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov responded to Trump’s threats by saying it would be “a very dangerous step.”
“We condemn the ongoing attempts by blackmail to achieve concessions from Russia,” Ryabkov told Russian state news agency TASS. “Apparently, the inability and unwillingness to negotiate with us on a reasonable basis are pushing certain forces in Washington to bring the country’s leadership to a decision on the formal withdrawal from the treaty. This would be a very dangerous step.”
Nuclear disarmament groups also came out against Trump’s decision. “This is a reckless move by Trump,” Kate Hudson, general secretary for The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament said in a statement on Sunday, NBC reported. “Tearing up the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty will mark the end of the restraints on nuclear arsenals achieved in the 1980s. The danger is that we will see spiraling arsenals on a Cold War scale.”
Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who signed the original treaty in 1987, also discouraged Trump from withdrawing. “Under no circumstances should we tear up old disarmament agreements. … Do they really not understand in Washington what this could lead to?” Gorbachev said, Interfax news agency reported.
While Trump did not say how exactly Russia has violated the treaty, White House national security experts accused Russia of launching a cruise missile in 2017, a clear violation of the agreement.
For the United States to withdraw from the treaty would be a grave error, according to Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia nonproliferation program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey: “This is a colossal mistake. Russia gets to violate the treaty and Trump takes the blame,” Lewis told The Guardian. “I doubt very much that the U.S. will deploy much that would have been prohibited by the treaty. Russia, though, will go gangbusters.”