Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday signed into law a bill on the suspension of a crucial arms control treaty signed by U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Moscow suspended participation in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in March after U.S. President Donald Trump's White House announced it would ditch the agreement because of alleged Russian violations of the terms.
The INF deal resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals, but put no restrictions on other major military actors such as China. Together with another key arms control agreement known as New START, the INF was considered a cornerstone of global security. The agreement, which caps the number of nuclear warheads held by Washington and Moscow, expires in 2021. Putin has said he is ready to drop New START too, accusing Washington of being unwilling to negotiate an extension of the agreement.
The U.S. announced in February it will withdraw from the INF Treaty in six months unless Moscow ends what it says are violations of the 1987 pact. It claimed that Russia's testing of the 9M729 missiles breached the terms of the deal. It said it would reconsider its withdrawal if Russia came into compliance with the agreement, which bans both nations from stationing short- and intermediate-range land-based missiles in Europe. Russia denies violating the treaty. The U.S. is set to formally leave the treaty in August.