National security adviser John Bolton is preparing to inform Russian President Vladimir Putin next week that the U.S. will no longer be part of a key arms control treaty, The New York Times reported Friday.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), signed decades ago in a landmark 1986 meeting between former President Reagan and then-leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, allows the U.S. to counter Chinese efforts to amass arms in the Pacific but prevents the U.S. from deploying new weapons in response, the Times noted.
China, however, is not a signatory to the treaty and faces no limitations in developing intermediate-range nuclear missiles. As a signatory, the Times reported, Russia has been violating the pact since at least 2014.
Former President Obama chose to remain in the pact after objections from Germany and other European countries and to stave off another arms race, the paper notes.
The White House told the newspaper that no official decision has yet been made, but sources told the Times that President Trump is expected to sign off on leaving the treaty soon. According to the Times, the move would mark Trump’s first reversal on an arm controls treaty.
Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May but, the Times notes, that agreement was not a treaty and prevented only Iran from producing nuclear weapons.
The last president to withdraw from a major arms treaty was former President George W. Bush in 2002, when he pulled out of the nuclear Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
The news comes as Bolton departs for Moscow for high-level talks with Russian officials. He told the Times that he will inform Putin of the U.S. decision to leave the INF. Bolton declined to comment on his upcoming trip to the newspaper.
The 1987 pact bans all land-based missile with ranges of 310 to 3,420 miles and includes missiles carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads. The original ban between Moscow and Washington resulted in 2,692 missiles being destroyed.
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison earlier this month warned that the U.S. could be forced to “take out” missiles Russia is developing that violate the INF.
“It is time now for Russia to come to the table and stop the violations,” Hutchison told reporters in Brussels.
BY MORGAN GSTALTER – 10/20/18