The U.S. President Donald Trump said Washington would withdraw from a landmark Cold War-era treaty that eliminated nuclear missiles from Europe has triggered mixed reactions from Western countries.
British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson, in comments reported by the Financial Times, said London stood "resolute" behind Washington over the issue, and that the Kremlin was making a mockery of the agreement. However, another NATO member, Germany, voiced misgivings. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Trump's announcement "raises difficult questions for us and Europe," but noted that Russia hasn't cleared up allegations of violating the treaty.
The arms control accord, signed by Reagan and Gorbachev in a ceremony at the White House, bans land-based medium-range nuclear missiles capable of hitting Europe or Alaska. It ended a Cold War-era crisis, when the Soviet Union installed nearly 400 nuclear warheads pointed at Western Europe. The United States responded by stationing Pershing missiles and cruise missiles in Europe but this provoked a wave of protests from anti-nuclear campaigners, who felt the deployment turned Europe into a potential nuclear battleground. In the early 19
80s, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in Bonn, West Germany, and campaigners formed a protest camp at Greenham Common, in Britain, a site holding cruise missiles.
French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) during a phone call with Donald Trump, his office said yesterday. In addition, the European Commission yesterday urged the United States and Russia to pursue talks to preserve a nuclear weapons treaty. The Commission, the 28-nation European Union executive, stressed the nuclear treaty as a cornerstone of European defense for the last three decades.
Trump said over the weekend that the U.S. would exit the INF which has been in effect with Russia since 1987. He accuses Moscow of violating the agreement which curbed an arms race between the two countries, defusing a crisis over nuclear-tipped Soviet missiles targeting Western capitals. Russia in turn claims that Washington has not upheld its end of the deal.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton was to meet with Russian officials for two days of talks starting yesterday, a visit announced before Trump's statement on Saturday. Russia has denounced Trump's move, the latest to strain ties between the two countries. The dispute came ahead of what is expected to be a second summit between Trump and Putin this year, although no date has yet been set.
The prospect of withdrawing from the INF adds to the substantial tensions between Washington and Moscow, including allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and sanctions imposed over Russia's involvement in the eastern Ukraine conflict. On Friday, the U.S. announced criminal charges against a Russian for alleged attempts to influence next month's midterm elections.
The treaty helps protect the security of the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Far East, but has constrained the U.S. from developing new weapons. The U.S. will begin developing them unless Russia and China agree not to possess or develop the weapons, Trump said. China isn't 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.
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