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U.S. Set To Suspend Obligations Regarding INF Treaty In Dispute With Russia

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to announce the suspension of U.S. obligations in the INF Treaty.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to announce the suspension of U.S. obligations in the INF Treaty.

WASHINGTON -- The United States is expected to announce it will suspend compliance with a key Cold War weapons treaty, most likely on February 1, over its accusations that Russia is not meeting its obligations.

A congressional staffer told RFE/RL on January 31 that the State Department is likely to make the announcement a day ahead of the U.S.-set deadline of February 2 for Russia to meet Washington's requirements as part of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

Multiple news agencies also reported that the announcement was imminent.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to hold a briefing on February 1, although the subject of the news conference was not disclosed.

The U.S. action has been expected for months and was virtually assured after last-ditch talks in Beijing on January 31 between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Undersecretary of State Andrea Thompson ended without agreement.

“Unfortunately, there is no progress," Russian news agencies quoted Ryabkov as saying after the talks with Thompson.

In an interview with Reuters, Thompson said, "The Russians still aren't in acknowledgment that they are in violation of the treaty."

The fate of the 1987 INF Treaty, widely seen as a cornerstone of arms-control stability in Europe and elsewhere, has been a source of tensions between Moscow and Washington.

Washington and NATO accuse Russia of breaching the treaty by developing the 9M729 cruise missile, also known as the SSC-8.

Moscow denies that the missile is violating the INF Treaty and accuses the United States in turn that it wants to abandon the pact so it can start a new arms race.

Washington has said that if Russia does not return to compliance, it will start the six-month process of leaving the pact from February 2. U.S. officials say Washington could resume its INF obligations should Russia meet its requirements.

The 1987 treaty prohibits the two countries from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The agreement was the first of its kind to eliminate an entire class of missiles.

The United States first publicly accused Moscow of violating the INF Treaty in 2014. After several years of fruitless talks, Washington began stepping up its rhetoric in late 2017, publicly identifying the missile in question and asserting that Russia had moved beyond testing, and had begun deploying the systems.

Late last year, Washington began providing NATO members and other allies with more detailed, classified satellite and telemetry data, as part of the effort to build support for its accusations.

With reporting by Reuters and AP