WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that his administration would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which the United States signed with Russia in 1987, accusing Moscow of violating the agreement.
Trump confirmed the decision to reporters after a campaign rally in Nevada, just over two weeks ahead of the November midterm elections.
“Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years and I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out,” Trump said.
US media outlets had reported that National Security Advisor John Bolton was pressuring Trump to withdraw from the treaty, arguing that Russia was violating it with the development of a new cruise missile.
Bolton left Saturday toward Moscow, where he is expected to meet with top officials from Vladimir Putin’s administration.
“We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honored the agreement but Russia has not unfortunately honored the agreement so we’re going to terminate the agreement, we’re going to pull out,” the US president said.
Withdrawing from the INF would be an abrupt departure from US nuclear arms control policy, and some media outlets have even said that Bolton has been blocking talks on extending another treaty with Russia, the New Start, which was signed in 2010 and will expire in 2021.
Asked to clarify his remarks, Trump said that the US would “have to develop those weapons.”
“Unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and they say, ‘Let’s all of us get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons,’ but if Russia is doing it and if China is doing it and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable,” he said.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed on Dec. 8, 1987, by then-Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan.
The INF was the first agreement designed to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the two countries, and led to the elimination in 1991 of all short-range and intermediate-range missiles, which was a key step to reduce tensions during the Cold War.