No Unified Backing on Trump Treaty Move10/21 10:37
Members of Congress offered no unified response to treaty move, with
reaction ranging from "a big, big mistake" to "absolutely the right move."
ELKO, Nevada (AP) -- President Donald Trump says his intention to scrap a
landmark arms control agreement Russia follows years of violations by Moscow in
developing prohibited weapons, and "we're not going to be the only one to
adhere to it." The Kremlin said the pullout "would be a very dangerous step."
Members of Congress offered no unified response, with reaction ranging from
"a big, big mistake" to "absolutely the right move."
A split emerged among U.S. allies in Europe: Britain said it stood
"absolutely resolute" with the U.S., while Germany called Trump's move
The 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty helps protect the security
of the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Far East. It bars the United
States and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying a ground-launched
cruise missile with a range of 300 miles to 3,400 miles.
"Russia has violated the agreement. They have been violating it for many
years," Trump said Saturday after a rally in Elko, Nevada. "And we're not going
to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we're not
The agreement has constrained the U.S. from developing new weapons, but
America will begin developing them unless Russia and China agree not to possess
or develop the weapons, Trump said. China is not a party to the pact.
"We'll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China
comes to us and they all come to us and say let's really get smart and let's
none of us develop those weapons, but if Russia's doing it and if China's doing
it, and we're adhering to the agreement, that's unacceptable," he said.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said it was "a big, big mistake to flippantly get out
of this historic agreement." He told "Fox News Sunday" that both sides accuse
the other of violations, and he wants "a rational discussion" with experts to
see if Washington and Moscow can settle their differences.
The chairman off the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he hopes
Trump's step is just a negotiating maneuver. Sen. Bob Corker told CNN's "State
of the Union" that "this could be something that's just a precursor to trying
to get Russia to come into compliance."
Corker, R-Tenn., said he hopes "we're going to be able to figure out a way
to stay within the treaty."
But backing Trump was Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said on Fox News:
"Absolutely the right move," adding that "the Russians have been cheating."
Trump is sending his national security adviser, John Bolton, to Moscow for
meetings with Russian leaders, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and
Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, and was expected to relay the
news about Trump's decision.
"This would be a very dangerous step," Russia's deputy foreign minister,
Sergei Ryabkov, was quoted as telling state news agency Tass on Sunday. He said
a U.S. withdrawal "will cause the most serious condemnation from all members of
the international community who are committed to security and stability."
Germany's foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said Trump's move was "regrettable,"
the treaty was "an important pillar of our European security architecture" and
a pullout "raises difficult questions for us and Europe." Maas also said
Germany has repeatedly urged Moscow to "clear up the serious allegations of
breaching the INF treaty, which Russia has so far not done."
But Britain's defense secretary, Gavin Williamson, said his country stands
"absolutely resolute" with the United States on the treaty dispute. Williamson
blamed Russia for endangering the arms control pact and he called on the
Kremlin to "get its house in order."
Williamson told the Financial Times on Sunday that Moscow had made a
"mockery" of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
U.S.-Russia relations already are strained as a result of the Ukrainian
crisis, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016
presidential race and upcoming U.S. midterm elections.
Trump did not provide details about violations. But in 2017, White House
national security officials said Russia had deployed a cruise missile in
violation of the treaty. Earlier, the Obama administration accused the Russians
of violating the pact by developing and testing a prohibited cruise missile.
Russia has repeatedly denied that it has violated the treaty and has accused
the United States of not being in compliance.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has previously suggested that a Trump
administration proposal to add a sea-launched cruise missile to America's
nuclear arsenal could provide the U.S. with leverage to try to persuade Russia
to come back in line on the arms treaty.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said in February that the country would only
consider using nuclear weapons in response to an attack involving nuclear or
other weapons of mass destruction, or in response to a non-nuclear assault that
endangered the survival of the Russian nation.
An independent Russian political analyst, Dmitry Oreshkin, said, "We are
slowly slipping back to the situation of cold war as it was at the end of the
Soviet Union, with quite similar consequences, but now it could be worse
because (Russian President Vladimir) Putin belongs to a generation that had no
war under its belt."
Trump's decision could prove controversial with European allies and others
who see value in the treaty, said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to
Ukraine and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who focuses on
nuclear arms control.
"Once the United States withdraws from the treaty, there is no reason for
Russia to even pretend it is observing the limits," he wrote in a post on the
organization's website. "Moscow will be free to deploy the 9M729 cruise
missile, and an intermediate-range ballistic missile if it wants, without any
U.S. officials have previously alleged that Russia violated the treaty by
deliberately deploying a land-based cruise missile in order to pose a threat to
NATO. Russia has claimed that U.S. missile defenses violate the pact.
In the past, the Obama administration worked to convince Moscow to respect
the INF treaty but made little progress.
"If they get smart and if others get smart and they say let's not develop
these horrible nuclear weapons, I would be extremely happy with that, but as
long as somebody's violating the agreement, we're not going to be the only ones
to adhere to it," Trump said.