Putin suspends INF arms treaty with US

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday officially suspended Russia’s participation in a key Cold War-era arms treaty, after the United States (US) first moved to ditch the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) deal.

Putin “signed a decree regarding the suspension of Russia’s participation in the agreement between the USSR and the US,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

The move was taken following “a violation of the US of its obligations under the treaty,” it said.

Moscow and Washington have accused one another of breaching the INF agreement concluded between the US and the former Soviet Union (USSR) in 1987.

US President Donald Trump said in February that Washington would start a process to withdraw from the deal within six months.

Putin responded soon after that Russia was planning to suspend its involvement.

He said Russia would seek to develop medium-range missiles in response to what he said were similar projects in the US, raising the spectre of a new arms race.

In his State of the Nation address last month, Putin threatened to deploy new missiles against Western capitals.

The longtime Russian leader warned Washington against deploying any new missiles in Europe following the collapse of the treaty, saying Moscow would consider it a “serious threat”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed the threats as “bluster” designed to divide Washington and its allies.

Brokered by then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the INF treaty ended a superpower buildup of warheads that had frightened Europe.

It banned ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres.