Russia willing to discuss mutual arms inspections with US to save INF pact
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has reportedly expressed Moscow’s willingness to discuss mutual inspections with Washington in a bid to save the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) amid US threats to withdraw from the pact.
Reporting the development on Friday, Russia’s RIA news agency cited Vladimir Yermakov, a foreign ministry official, as saying that Moscow “categorically rules out inspections being carried out on a unilateral basis.”
US President Donald Trump and other administration officials have threatened to pull out of the key arms control agreement, accusing Russia of breaching the Cold War-era treaty and vowing to develop new nuclear arsenals.
The INF, which was signed in 1986 between then US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, allowed the US to counter Chinese moves to build up arms in the Pacific but prevented Washington from deploying new nuclear armaments in response.
The treaty banned all land-based missiles with ranges of 310 to 3,420 miles and included missiles carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads. The original ban between Moscow and Washington led to the elimination of 2,692 missiles.
"Russia has not adhered to the agreement. So we are going to terminate the agreement," Trump said in October, referring to the INF.
The US president further alleged that "Russia has violated the agreement. They've been violating it for many years. I don't know why president (Barack) Obama didn't negotiate or pull out. And we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons (while) we're not allowed to."
“We’ll have to develop those weapons,” he then vowed.
Trump made the remarks on October 20, a day after the US-based New York Times reported that the American military had been developing nuclear weapons to counter Chinese armaments already deployed.
According to the report, since China is not a signatory to the Washington-Moscow nuclear pact, the Trump administration decided to accuse Russia of violating the INF.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned last week that Moscow will be forced to respond if Washington withdraws from the nuclear arms control treaty.
Putin further stated that Russia will develop missiles currently banned under the INF if the US acts on its threat to abandon the accord and begins developing such weapons.
The Russian head of state said the US had decided long ago to pull out of the treaty and is now looking for justifications by blaming Moscow, which he said is opposed to scrapping the accord.
Also last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that Washington’s persisting threats to withdraw from the INF pave the way for ruining the new START nuclear weapons pact.