The United States formally withdrew from a landmark nuclear missile pact with Russia on Friday after determining that Moscow was in violation of the treaty, something the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.
Washington signalled it would pull out of the arms control treaty six months ago unless Moscow stuck to the accord. Russia called the move a ploy to exit a pact the United States wanted to leave anyway in order to develop new missiles.
The 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was negotiated by then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
It banned land-based missiles with a range of between 310 and 3,400 miles (500-5,500 km), thus reducing both countries’ ability to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.
“The United States will not remain party to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement about the U.S. withdrawal.
“Russia’s non-compliance under the treaty jeopardises 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,” Pompeo said.
Senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Russia had deployed “multiple battalions” of a cruise missile throughout Russia in violation of the pact, including in western Russia, “with the ability to strike critical European targets.”
Russia denies the allegation, saying the missile’s range puts it outside the treaty. It has rejected a U.S. demand to destroy the new missile, the Novator 9M729, known as the SSC-8 by the NATO Western military alliance.