By Andrew Irumba and Spy Correspondent
On 2 January 2019 the US State Department published an official statement declaring that the United States has withdrawn from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. The withdrawal process will be complete in six months, according to the document.
The document announcing Washington’s withdrawal from the 1987 agreement was published on the US State Department website late Saturday.
Similar to a NATO statement made two days ago, the US State Department claimed that Russia is in “material breach” of the INF treaty, citing the 9M729 missile (NATO classification SSC-8), which can reportedly travel beyond the 500-kilometer limit noted in the agreement.
“In accordance with customary international law, the United States has suspended its obligations under the INF Treaty, effective today,” it reads.
“The United States has concluded that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of the Treaty arising from Russia’s continued non-compliance have jeopardized the United States’ supreme interests, and the United States can no longer be restricted by the Treaty while Russia openly violates it,” the document states.
The US issued Russia “and other Treaty Parties” formal notice that Washington will withdraw in six months, as required by Article XV of the INF agreement.
“If Russia does not return to full and verifiable compliance with the Treaty by eliminating all 9M729 missiles, their launchers, and associated equipment in this six-month period, the Treaty will be terminated,” the statement says.
The document says Washington has “gone to tremendous lengths to preserve the INF Treaty, engaging with Russian officials more than 30 times in nearly six years to discuss Russia’s violation, including at the highest levels of government.”
The US statement uses a pointed tone in the final paragraph, claiming that Washington “takes its treaty obligations seriously and will not stand idle when others flout their obligations.”
“Violations of treaty obligations must have consequences,” it reads.
According to the statement, the US seeks arms control that is “verifiable and enforceable; and includes partners that comply responsibly with their obligations.”
The document reiterates that the US “stands ready to engage with Russia on arms control negotiations that meet these criteria.”
Responding to the official notice, the Russian Foreign Ministry published an official statement of its own condemning Washington’s decision.
“Russia has done the maximum of what was possible to save the Treaty,” the statement reads. “We have repeatedly tried to bring the Americans to professional discussion, offered concrete initiatives aimed to find solutions to mutual accusations. As a sign of good will, we engaged in an unprecedented level of transparency that exceeded the Treaty demands. However, all our efforts were either ignored or blocked by the US, who long embarked on destruction of the INF in order to get rid of restrictions on their missile potential.”
On Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova noted that Washington has failed to present evidence proving alleged Russian violations of the treaty, “apart from Tweets”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that, as a retaliatory measure, Moscow is also suspending its participation in the INF nuclear treaty following the US decision to end the deal.
“We will proceed as follows. Our response will be reciprocal. US partners have announced that they were suspending their participation in the [INF] Treaty, and we are suspending it as well. They have announced that they are engaged in research and development, and we will do the same thing,” Putin said at a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Russia has repeatedly denied it possesses ground-based missiles capable of striking targets 500-5,500 kilometers distant. The 9M729, according to Russian military officials, has a range of only 450 kilometers.
By 1991, four years after the treaty was signed, Russia had completed its obligations under the agreement by scrapping 1,846 missiles, while the US — under the same terms — scrapped 846 missiles.
Russia has repeatedly accused the US of INF treaty violations. On February 2, the Russian embassy in the US published a press release from the Russian Ministry of Defense stating that in 2017 the “Raytheon military-industrial Corporation in the city of Tucson, Arizona, has launched a program of expansion and upgrade of production facilities in order to create medium and shorter-range missiles banned by the INF Treaty.”