The Trump administration said Friday it is freeing itself from the constraints of a nuclear arms control treaty with Russian Federation and will begin withdrawing from the pact on Saturday.
The Cold War-era treaty, which eliminated nuclear missiles from Europe, was negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.
The agreement has been a centerpiece of security across Europe since the Cold War, officials have explained.
Administration officials have dismissed concerns that the treaty's demise could trigger a race to develop and deploy more intermediate-range missiles.
Trump said that on Saturday, the USA will "suspend its obligations" under the treaty, meaning it will be freed from its constraints, including the testing and deployment of missiles banned by the pact.
Pompeo says the US will suspend its obligations to the treaty on February 2.
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said intelligence from many countries showed Russian Federation had broken the treaty.
Even so, Countryman and others said that withdrawal from the INF Treaty is "premature" and will create "some difficulties between the U.S. and its European allies, not today but down the road".
"Putin's decision to build weapons that violate this important arms control treaty is another of his attacks on the peace in Europe", according to Jorge Benitez, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a global affairs research group in Washington.
Trump administration officials have cited Russia's noncompliance with the treaty as the reason for leaving the deal, but many experts argue that the treaty's demise will put US allies at risk.
They point to growing tensions between the United States and China and Russian Federation, the unresolved negotiations with an unpredictable North Korea and a new American hostility to multilateral pacts that fueled Washington's decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal.
US suspends compliance with nuclear treaty, may withdraw in six months
The treaty required the parties to destroy ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 km (310 to 3,420 miles).
USA officials also have expressed worry that China, which is not party to the 1987 treaty, is gaining a significant military advantage in Asia by deploying large numbers of missiles with ranges beyond the treaty's limit.
Leaving the treaty would allow the Trump administration to counter the Chinese, but it's unclear how it would do that.
"Tomorrow, the United States will suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty and begin the process of withdrawing from the INF Treaty, which will be completed in 6 months unless Russian Federation comes back into compliance by destroying all of its violating missiles, launchers, and associated equipment", Trump said Friday in a statement.
Technically, a US withdrawal would take effect six months after this week's notification, leaving a small window for saving the treaty. It follows years of unresolved dispute over Russian compliance with the 1987 pact, which bans certain ground-launched cruise missiles. "The position of the American side is very tough and like an ultimatum".
Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Robert Menendez, D-N.J., agreed in a statement that Moscow has "brazenly violated the INF treaty and has been unwilling to take the steps necessary to come back into compliance".
US withdrawal raises the prospect of further deterioration in U.S. The current Pentagon budget includes $48 million for research on potential military responses to the alleged Russian violations, but US officials said the options do not include a nuclear missile.
In the U.S. Senate, Jeff Merkley of OR and other Democrats have drafted a measure that seeks to put new restrictions on the types of weapons the INF was created to control.
For far too long, Russian Federation has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops overseas.
USA officials say that some 95% of China's ballistic and cruise missiles, a core part of Beijing's defense strategy, would violate the INF Treaty if China were a signatory.
Kingston Reif, director for disarmament at the Arms Control Association, said Thursday that the USA had failed to exhaust diplomatic options to save the treaty.
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They come a week after the USA announced it was recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the president of Venezuela . A US official, who asked not to be named, said they "have seen nothing to support" Bolton's annotation.