The United States on Friday will pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty to develop its own new warheads after the Russians refused to destroy their new missiles, which NATO says violate the pact.
U.S. President Donald Trump is expressing optimism a new agreement can be made to replace the historic Cold War pact.
"Russia would like to do something on a nuclear treaty and that’s OK with me. They would like to do something and so would I," Trump said in response to a question from VOA on Thursday afternoon.
But the president, speaking on the White House South Lawn before boarding the Marine One helicopter, said, "We didn’t discuss the INF" when he spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin the previous day.
"When it expires tomorrow, the world will lose an invaluable brake on nuclear war. This will likely heighten, not reduce, the threat posed by ballistic missiles," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters Thursday. "Regardless of what transpires, the parties should avoid destabilizing developments and urgently seek agreement on a new common path for international arms control."
U.S. officials for months have complained that Russia turned a deaf ear to pleas from officials here and in Europe to halt its violations of the treaty, especially development and fielding of the SSC-8 ground-launched cruise missiles.
Russian officials claim they have strictly observed the treaty’s provision and have not allowed violations.
Putin signed legislation a month ago suspending his country's participation in the treaty, five months after the Trump administration made a similar move.
The historic Cold War-era pact has been a pillar of European security for more than 30 years. It bans the development and deployment of ground-launched nuclear missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,400 miles).
Concerns for Europe, beyond
European leaders, fearing a renewed arms race if the treaty is jettisoned, called on Washington and Moscow to remain constructively engaged to try to preserve it.
There is also concern about the ramifications beyond Europe.
"The prospect of new ground-based INF systems being introduced in Asia could conceivably spark similar political turmoil among Asian allies," said Laura Kennedy, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkmenistan and former U.S. permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
"Even if the U.S. planned only to field such future systems on U.S.-territory such as Guam, such a move could be seen as threatening by China, which could respond by introducing a new wave of systems as a counter," Kennedy, an adviser to Foreign Policy for America, told VOA.
The 1987 INF agreement was signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It eliminated the medium-range missile arsenals of the two countries and went into effect in June of the following year.