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Asked Friday about developing new missiles, senior administration officials said it would take “some time” to make decisions
“We are some time away from a flight test,” an official said. “We are certainly some time away of an acquisition decision and a deployment decision.” The official stressed that any decision would be made in consultation with U.S. allies in Europe.
Pompeo in his remarks gave a “special thanks” to NATO allies for backing the United States on its move. Trump’s October announcement was said to have caught allies off guard, but Pompeo consulted with NATO at a December ministerial and allies released a statement of support then.
On Friday, NATO’s political decisionmaking body released a eight-paragraph statement outlining Russia’s violations of the treaty, adding that allies “fully support” the U.S. suspension.
“Unless Russia honours its INF Treaty obligations through the verifiable destruction of all of its 9M729 systems, thereby returning to full and verifiable compliance before the U.S. withdrawal takes effect in six months, Russia will bear sole responsibility for the end of the treaty,” the North Atlantic Council statement said.
The move is likely to irritate existing tensions between the U.S. and Russia, despite Trump’s oft-cited desire to improve relations with Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Pompeo indicated Friday that U.S. officials would continue to have discussions with their Russian counterparts in the hopes of bringing Moscow back into compliance with the treaty over the next six months.
Pompeo also said the administration is “hopeful” the relationship between Washington and Moscow can be improved, but he put the onus on Russia to change its behavior.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) slammed Friday’s announcement as a “geostrategic gift” to Putin and accused Trump of lacking “an appreciation or understating of the importance” of arms control treaties.
“Through its actions, the Kremlin bears responsibility for the degradation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty,” Menendez said in statement. “Throughout this process however, I have had serious concerns that the Trump administration lacks a coherent strategy to address the threat new Russian cruise missiles pose to the interests of the United States and those of our allies.”
Menendez also raised the issue of the New START agreement, which caps the number of nuclear warheads the United States and Russia are allowed to deploy. New START comes up for renewal in February 2021, and some fear the INF withdrawal also portends the end of New START.
“With the renewal of the New START agreement coming up next year, I strongly urge the administration try a new approach and develop a coherent strategy to stabilize our arms control regime,” Menendez said.
Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, applauded Friday’s move as long overdue.
“The Russian government has had endless opportunities to change their bad behavior, and over the past 60 days has proven its disinterest in doing so,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said in a statement. “The time has come to set the treaty aside and develop alternative avenues toward the security the treaty once provided.”
[Source: By Morgan Chalfant and Rebecca Kheel, The Hill, Washington, 01Feb19]
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