Trump Administration Announces U.S. Withdrawal From INF Treaty

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
February 1, 2019

The Trump administration announced on Friday that the United States would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty because Russia continues to be in violation of the agreement.

The White House released a statement from President Donald Trump in which he calls out Russia for violating the treaty and posing a threat to NATO allies.

For far too long, Russia has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad. Tomorrow, the United States will suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty and begin the process of withdrawing from the INF Treaty, which will be completed in 6 months unless Russia comes back into compliance by destroying all of its violating missiles, launchers, and associated equipment. Our NATO Allies fully support us, because they understand the threat posed by Russia’s violation and the risks to arms control posed by ignoring treaty violations.

The United States has fully adhered to the INF Treaty for more than 30 years, but we will not remain constrained by its terms while Russia misrepresents its actions. We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other. We will move forward with developing our own military response options and will work with NATO and our other allies and partners to deny Russia any military advantage from its unlawful conduct.

My Administration remains committed to effective arms control that advances United States, allied, and partner security, is verifiable and enforceable, and includes partners that fulfill their obligations. For arms control to effectively contribute to national security, all parties must faithfully implement their obligations. We stand ready to engage with Russia on arms control negotiations that meet these criteria, and, importantly, once that is done, develop, perhaps for the first time ever, an outstanding relationship on economic, trade, political, and military levels. This would be a fantastic thing for Russia and the United States, and would also be great for the world.

The Cold War-era treaty, which eliminated nuclear missiles from Europe, was negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. The treaty dictated both countries eliminate their short-range and intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles. Russia has violated the treaty by developing, testing, and deploying a new ground-launched cruise missile called the SSC-8.

Trump announced his intention in December to pull out from the treaty and gave Russia until Feb. 2 to get back in compliance.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared on camera Friday to announce the administration's decision.

"We provided Russia an ample window of time to mend its ways and for Russia to honor its commitment. Tomorrow that time runs out. Russia has refused to take any steps to return real and verifiable compliance over these 60 days," Pompeo said. "The United States therefore will suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty, effective February 2nd."

Some members of Congress have come out and applauded the Trump administration's decision.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) said Trump is making a right and necessary step.

"I applaud President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the INF treaty. Because of long-standing Russian violations of the treaty, this accord was serving only to limit America’s ability to defend ourselves while our adversaries advanced their capabilities. The Trump Administration is taking the right and necessary step to defend both the security of our nation and that of our NATO allies by formally withdrawing from the INF Treaty," Cheney said in a statement.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) wrote in a tweet that it is time for the United States to "move on" from the treaty.

China opposes a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty but refuses to join to avoid limiting its own large missile force, the Washington Free Beacon previously reported.