Hours after President Trump announced that the U.S. will pull out of a decades-old bilateral nuclear agreement that he said Russia had been “violating for many years,” top Russian officials lined up to hit back in no uncertain terms, calling the president’s move a “very dangerous” provocation that would lead to “full chaos.”
“We condemn the ongoing attempts by blackmail to achieve concessions from Russia,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told a state news agency. “This would be a very dangerous step.”
Konstatin Kosachev, who chairs the foreign affairs committee in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, wrote on Facebook that Trump’s decision meant “mankind is facing full chaos in the nuclear weapons sphere.”
And prominent Russian senator Aleksey Pushkov charged that Trump’s move meant “United States is bringing the world back to the Cold War,” saying the U.S.’ withdrawal from the treaty would be a “massive blow to the entire system of strategic stability in the world.” Pushkov had previously criticized claims that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, arguing those suggestions are part of a plan to continue a “new Cold War.”
The 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty ostensibly prevents both the United States and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying any ground-launched cruise missile with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles. President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev inked the deal because of an unfolding crisis.
“We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement.”
But the Trump administration has said Russia broke the deal by deploying Novator 9M729 land-based cruise missiles, which can exceed that range and strike NATO countries quickly. The U.S. has previously acknowledged that Russia was violating the treaty in 2012 under the Obama administration, and for their part, Russian officials have also suggested the U.S. hasn’t complied with the treaty by placing missiles in European bases.
After speaking at a campaign rally in Elko, Nevada, on Saturday, Trump said the agreement did little more than interfere with U.S. military development.
“We’re going to terminate the agreement, and we’re going to pull out,” Trump told reporters. “They have been violating it for many years. I don’t know why President [Barack] Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out. … We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons, and we’re not allowed to.”