End of the Road For the INF Treaty?

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Russia wasted no time responding to the United States announcement it was suspending compliance with the INF Treaty. Earlier today, Russian President Vladimir Putin let it be known his country would be doing the same. The door is not completely closed on the landmark arms control agreement though. The US has given Russia a six-month period of time to return to full compliance with the terms of the treaty. Not that Russia has been honoring its treaty commitment in recent years. Washington has long suspected Russia of violating the treaty with suspicions going back to when Barack Obama was in office. Little was done by the previous administration to redress the situation, however. President Trump’s approach to the matter has been more decisive. The Trump administration has openly called out Russia and provided evidence that at the very least suggests Moscow is not adhering to the terms of the INF treaty.

The latest US action was anticipated and can hardly be considered a surprise. Fair warning was given and Russia did not respond to it. If Moscow does not begin complying with the treaty terms in six months, the INF treaty will be terminated. The US suspending compliance doesn’t herald the start of a new arms race, contrary to the warnings of some pundits. The race has been underway since Russia breached the terms of the treaty. The United States is now forced to play catch-up in essence. The current mindset in Washington is simple: Russia has not been restricted by the treaty in recent years, so why should the US continue to allow its own hands to be tied?

The Atlantic Alliance is standing behind the United States on this matter. NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the BBC: “All [European] allies agree with the United States because Russia has violated the treaty for several years. They are deploying more and more of the new nuclear capable missiles in Europe.” This week US envoys will be dispatched to the capital cities of numerous alliance members and detailed briefings on the situation will be given.

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