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European nuclear powers must intervene in INF Treaty situation, expert says

The future of nuclear arms control "will in any case be multilateral", according to the expert

MOSCOW, February 1. /TASS/. European countries, particularly the United Kingdom and France who have nuclear weapons, must engage in efforts to establish a new nuclear arms control system, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Andrei Kortunov said in an article for Kommersant.

He pointed out that it was the UK, Germany and France that initiated dialogue on the Iranian nuclear issue back in 2003, which successfully resulted in a deal in 2015.

"Today, in light of Washington’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty [the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty - TASS], the global situation is much more difficult than it was in 2003, and the threats to European security are higher. Russian-US dialogue on nuclear issues is either facing barriers or is even about to get suspended for years to come," the expert said. "Perhaps, it is time European leaders show the same political will and imagination they demonstrated in 2003?" Kortunov added.

"The future of nuclear arms control - if it has a future at all - will in any case be multilateral. And if two superpowers fail to accomplish the mission history tasked them with, then maybe it is time other nuclear countries join the game?" the expert wrote.

According to him, it is Europe that should work on the development of a new multilateral arms control mechanism but, in Kortunov’s words, it will take much time. "For many reasons, it is easier for the Europeans to tackle the issue than it is for the two privileged members of the ‘nuclear club’," he concluded.

INF Treaty issue

The INF Treaty, signed by the Soviet Union and the United States on December 8, 1987, took effect on June 1, 1988. It applies to deployed and non-deployed ground-based missiles of intermediate range (1,000-5,000 kilometers) and shorter range (500-1,000 kilometers). In the recent years, Washington has been repeatedly accusing Russia of violating the treaty. Moscow strongly dismissed the accusations and voiced its own claims concerning Washington’s non-compliance.

On October 20, 2018, US President Donald Trump said that Washington would pull out of the INF Treaty because Russia had allegedly violated it. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said it was a dangerous move. Berlin and Beijing criticized Washington, while London voiced its support for the US, and NATO laid the blame for Trump’s decision on Russia.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said on December 4, 2018, that Washington would suspend its obligations under the Treaty unless Moscow returned to "full and verifiable" compliance within 60 days. On December 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters that Washington had not provided evidence proving Moscow’s violations of the document. He also said that Russia called for maintaining the Treaty but if the United States pulled out of it, Moscow would have to give an appropriate response.

On January 15, Russia and the US held inter-agency consultations on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) in Geneva. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said following the meeting that the US had not even tried to bring the positions of the parties closer, making it clear that it was determined to implement its plans to destroy the Treaty. The US State Department's Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson, in turn, once again accused Russia of non-compliance with the document and said that Washington would start the process of pulling out of the INF Treaty on February 2, unless Moscow dismantled the 9M729 missile, which, according to Washington, violates the Treaty.