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What is the INF Treaty?

FILE - U.S. President Ronald Reagan (R) and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev exchange pens during the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signing ceremony in the White House East Room in Washington, D.C., Dec. 8, 1987.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged to pull out of a key Cold War arms deal with Russia, accusing Moscow of violating it.Here is some key information about the treaty.

What is the INF?

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which was signed in December 1987 by then U.S. President Ronald Reagan and then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, committed the two sides to eliminate all their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, along with missile launchers.

By the mid-1970s, the Soviet Union had deployed newly-developed SS-20 intermediate-range missiles aimed at Europe. The United States and its NATO allies responded with a "dual-track" policy of deploying intermediate-range, nuclear-armed U.S. ground-launched cruise and Pershing II missiles, while at the same time seeking an arms control agreement with the Soviet side. Negotiations began to bear fruit once Gorbachev became Soviet leader in March 1985.

The INF Treaty, which entered into force on June 1, 1988, originally applied only to U.S. and Soviet missiles. However, in 1991, following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the treaty was extended to cover former Soviet states, including Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Other European countries, including Germany, Hungary, Poland, the Czech, Slovakia and Bulgaria, eventually also eliminated their stocks of intermediate-range missiles.

Why do some US and Russian officials oppose the treaty?

Russian officials have complained the INF Treaty was unfairly preventing it from having weapons that neighbors like China possess, and raised the possibility Russia could withdraw from the agreement.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have accused Russia of developing and deploying a new ground-launched cruise missiles that violate the treaty.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton (L) and Russian Security Council chairman Nikolai Patrushev talk prior their official talks in Moscow, Russia, Oct. 22, 2018.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton (L) and Russian Security Council chairman Nikolai Patrushev talk prior their official talks in Moscow, Russia, Oct. 22, 2018.

Similarly, John Bolton, who is now President Donald Trump's national security adviser, co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed published in August 2011 that cited China's "rapidly increasing" cruise and ballistic missile arsenals, as well as the potential missile threat from Iran and North Korea, as evidence the INF Treaty had "outlived its usefulness in its current form."

"Despite the Kremlin's growing propensity for international troublemaking, both Moscow and Washington have a common interest in not having their hands tied by a treaty that binds them alone." the op-ed stated.

Why do proponents say the treaty is worth keeping?

IMF Treaty supporters argue, among other things, that withdrawing from it strategically benefits Russia, since its geography is better suited for using such intermediate range missiles. They say there is no chance the U.S. will be able to redeploy intermediate-range missiles in Europe, nor in South Korea and Japan, where they would be most effective against American adversaries like North Korea.

They say withdrawing from the treaty essentially carries little to no strategic U.S. benefit, while giving Moscow a propaganda victory.