Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday that the United States is formally withdrawing from the INF missile treaty with Russia.
What's the background?
The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF) was signed by former President Ronald Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. Under the conditions of this treaty, both nations promised that they would not create any ground-launch nuclear missiles capable of hitting a target within a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. Following the signing of the treaty, the two nations destroyed a combined 2,700 nuclear missiles.
The U.S. had already accused Russia of violating this pact. 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 [NATO member] countries."
On Oct. 20, President Donald Trump said that he intended to pull the U.S. out of the INF treaty, since "Russia has violated the agreement" and "we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we're not allowed to."
On Feb. 2, the U.S. gave formal notice that it intended to leave the treaty in six months. That time period expired on Friday.
What happened now?
On Friday, the U.S. made this withdrawal that Trump promised official.
In a news release, the State Department said:
The United States will not remain party to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia. Russia's noncompliance under the treaty jeopardizes U.S. supreme interests as Russia's development and fielding of a treaty-violating missile system represents a direct threat to the United States and our allies and partners. The United States greatly appreciates the steadfast cooperation and resolve NATO allies have shown in responding to Russia's violation.
In a statement after the announcement was made, Pompeo said that Russia "bears sole responsibility" for this treaty ending.
"The U.S. will not remain party to a treaty when others violate it," he said.
On Feb 2nd, 2019 the U.S. gave Russia six months to return to compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces… https://t.co/8X5U61XeqH— Secretary Pompeo (@Secretary Pompeo)1564736631.0
Pompeo also said that NATO agreed with the decision of the United States.
The US and NATO agree: Russia violated the INF, and leaving the agreement is in the best interests of our collectiv… https://t.co/AHI3JYcaR2— Secretary Pompeo (@Secretary Pompeo)1564744467.0