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Russia answers by suspending Cold War-era nuclear treaty

By
Sommer Brokaw
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin seen during a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, last summer have both suspended participation in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin seen during a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, last summer have both suspended participation in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Russia suspended its participation in the nuclear treaty it signed more than three decades ago Saturday following a similar U.S. decision a day earlier.

President Vladimir Putin announced Saturday that Russia would suspend its involvement with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Arms treaty in a meeting with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, according to the Kremlin's official website.

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"Our U.S. partners announced that they are suspending their participation in the INF Treaty, and we are suspending it too," Putin said. "They said that they are engaged in research, development and design work, and we will do the same."

The INF treaty signed between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 banned all land-based cruise missiles with a range between 310 and 3,417 miles.

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On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would suspend the INF treaty and may return to it if Moscow comes into compliance within 180 days. The suspension came as time was running out on a 60-day deadline he announced in December for Russia to come into compliance.

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"We are heading into a direction we have not been in in 40 years: no arms control limits or rules that we are both following, and that is very dangerous," Lynn Rusten said in a CNN report. Rusten is a senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council during President Barack Obama's administration and now a vice president at the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Threat Initiative.

The United States has accused Moscow of violating the treaty since 2014.

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In particular, Pompeo said Russia has four battalions of 9M729 cruise missiles that violate the pact.

Moscow officials have denied breaking the the INF treaty and say that the United States has breached the agreement since 1999.

"The United States has been violating the Treaty since 1999, when it started testing combat unmanned aerial vehicles that have the same characteristics as land-based cruise missiles banned by the Treaty," Lavrov said. "The United States went on to use ballistic target missiles for testing their missile defense system, and in 2014 they began the deployment in their missile defense system positioning areas in Europe of Mk 41 vertical launching systems. These launchers are fully suitable as they are for Tomahawk intermediate-range attack missiles."

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Now that both countries have suspended the pact, Putin said Russia would start creating new missiles, including a land-based version of Russia's sea-launched Kalibr cruise missile and new hypersonic weapons that can travel more than five times the speed of sound.

Still, Putin said he did not want to "be drawn into an expensive arms race," and would not deploy intermediate and shorter-range missiles unless U.S. weapons were deployed first.

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