President Donald Trump confirmed on Saturday that the United States would be leaving a Cold War-era nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union.
Here’s what you need to know
The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF) was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987. It bans either nation from creating ground-launch nuclear missiles capable of hitting a target within a range of 500 km to 5,500 km. The treaty led to the destruction of 2,700 nuclear missiles between the two nations. It also offered assurance to U.S. allies in Europe.
After finishing a rally in Nevada on Saturday, Trump told reporters “We’ll have to develop those weapons,” adding “we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out.”
On Friday, The Guardian reported that National Security Adviser John Bolton was pushing for the U.S. to withdraw from this treaty. The treaty has an expiration date of 2021, but Russia has already expressed interest in renewing the pact.
The U.S. has accused the Russians of already violating the treaty with its 9M729 cruise missiles. On Oct. 2, U.S. ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said that Russia was “on notice” because of its use of these missiles, and that the United States “would be looking at the capability to take out a (Russian) missile that could hit any of our countries” referring to NATO member nations that would be in range of missiles banned by the 1987 treaty.
Trump brought up this point on Saturday as an argument in favor of ending the treaty altogether. “Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years,” he said. “And I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out. 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 that the only way he would keep the U.S. in the treaty was if “Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and they say, ‘Let’s all of us get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons,’ but if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable. So we have a tremendous amount of money to play with with our military.”
On Sunday, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the treaty along with former-U.S. President Ronald Reagan, has slammed Trump’s decision to end the treaty.
“Under no circumstances should we tear up old disarmament agreements,” he told Russia’s Interfax news agency. “Is it really that hard to understand that rejecting these agreements is, as the people say, not the work of a great mind.”
“Rejecting the INF is a mistake,” Gorbachev continued. “Do they really not understand in Washington what this can lead to?”