The US government is all set to formally withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, raising fears of a new arms race on Friday.
The treaty was signed by former US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. It banned missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km.
But earlier this year, the US and NATO had accused Russia of violating the pact by deploying a new type of cruise missile, which Moscow has denied.
However, Washington said that it has evidence that Russia had deployed a number of 9M729 missiles – known to NATO as SSC-8. This accusation was then put to Washington’s NATO allies, which all backed the US claim.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held a phone conversation regarding bilateral trade and the raging wildfires in Russia’s Siberia, according to the White House.
During the call, Trump offered to help cope with the wildfires, while Putin considered the offer as a sign of the potential restoration of bilateral relations.
Earlier in February, US President Donald Trump had announced that Washington would pull out from the pact if Russia didn’t come into compliance and set the deadline for August 2, according to reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended his country’s own obligations to the treaty shortly afterwards.
“An invaluable brake on nuclear war” was being lost, warned UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the BBC reported.
“This will likely heighten, not reduce, the threat posed by ballistic missiles,” he added while urging all parties to “seek agreement on a new common path for international arms control”.
In June this year, Putin had said that he and his US counterpart Donald Trump had asked their foreign ministries to begin talks on the extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
The New START agreement was signed between the US and Russia in 2010 and went into effect the following year. The pact, which will expire in 2021, envisages the two countries having the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers by Feb. 5, 2018.
The demise of the INF treaty – the only disarmament pact ever to eliminate a whole category of nuclear weapons – represents a significant setback for advocates of arms control.