The United States announced Friday it is pulling back from a decades-old treaty that banned an entire class of nuclear weapons, sparking concern among some analysts the move could trigger a new arms race.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said effective February 2, Washington is suspending its compliance with the U.S.-Russian Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which has been in effect since the Cold War. The U.S. accuses Russia of violating the treaty, which bans certain ground-launched cruise missiles. Russia denies the allegation.
The treaty was the world's first arms control pact to prohibit an entire class of weapons, specifically ground-launched cruise missiles with a range up to 5,500 kilometers.
Pompeo told reporters Friday at the State Department the U.S. will provide formal notice to Russia that it is withdrawing from the INF treaty in six months if Russia does not return to compliance.
U.S. withdrawal from the treaty had been expected for months, due to the unresolved dispute with Moscow.
"It's our duty to respond appropriately," Pompeo told reporters.
The pullout also is due to U.S. concern that China, which is not party to the treaty, was gaining a military advantage by deploying missiles with ranges exceeding the treaty's limit.
Pompeo had said in December the U.S. would give Russia 60 days to regain compliance. The deadline expires on Saturday, but the U.S. announced the withdrawal on Friday, saying efforts to negotiate an agreement to a compliance deal were not successful.
The White House said Russia has been "covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad" and that the U.S. "cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other."
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters the pullout deals "a serious blow to the international arms control system and the system of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which exist for now."
NATO is saying "allies fully support" the withdrawal and maintains the agreement was breached by Russia, with whom the military alliance says it continues to "aspire to a constructive relationship with."