Russia suspends INF treaty after US pulls out

Russia is leaving the decades-old Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty after a similar move by the US, said President Vladimir Putin, above centre (Photo credit: Press Service of the Russian President/TASS), after a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on Saturday.

The pull-out means Russia will develop missiles, including hypersonic ones, previously forbidden under the treaty. At the same time, Russia will not increase its military budget for the new weapons.

The military has been told to reconfigure the existing defence budget to find money for the new weapons, Putin said, scotching rumours of a costly arms race.

Calling it a mirror response, Putin said since the US is ceasing their participation in the treaty and doing research and testing on new weapons, Russia is doing the same.

Allaying Europe’s fears, he said Moscow would not deploy short and mid-range missiles in the continent unless Washington does it first.

The Russian president made it clear that no more talks would be initiated with the US to save the treaty. He hoped the US will behave like a mature nation and hold meaningful talks with Russia for the sake of the entire world.

According to Putin, Russia had never violated the INF treaty which limits nuclear and conventional land-launched missiles with a range between 500km and 5,500km.

The US set a two-month deadline in December last year for Russia ‘to mend its ways’ by stopping the production of 9M729 missiles which, Washington said, exceeded the range mentioned in the treaty. 

Moscow rejected the accusation and offered to conduct more mutual inspections.

On Feb 1 (Friday), Washington confirmed that the 1987 treaty will be suspended for six months from Saturday and officially scrapped afterwards.

Lavrov said Moscow took unprecedented steps far beyond its obligations to save the deal. He said Washington has been violating the INF treaty since the late 1990s by testing drones with features of the banned ground-based cruise missiles.

Later, the US installed MK 41 launchers for the defence shield in Europe that can be used to fire mid-range Tomahawk cruise missiles without any modification which was a direct violation of the treaty.