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Russia now says it, too, will abandon INF Treaty — formally — after cheating for years

The Russian government announced Saturday that it would also exit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty after the Trump adminstration said a day earlier it would abandon the pact because Moscow has been violating it for years.

That said, the Kremlin noted the Russian military would not deploy nuclear-tipped intermediate-range ballistic missiles targeting NATO if the U.S. and the alliance didn’t.

“We will respond quid pro quo,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said following President Donald Trump’s announcement, The Associated Press reported.

“Our American partners have announced they were suspending their participation in the treaty and will do the same. They have announced they will conduct research and development, and we will act accordingly,” Putin added, noting that he ordered his military to begin developing intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

“Russia will not station intermediate-range weapons in Europe or other regions until similar U.S. weapons appear in those regions,” he added.

The U.S. has accused Russia of deploying missiles with ranges that violate the 1987 INF Treaty’s limitations with “impunity.” As such, President said in a statement Friday that the U.S. will “move forward” with developing its own military response options.

The INF Treaty was signed during the waning years of the Reagan administration with then-Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbechev. Under provisions of the treaty nuclear missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles) were banned.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington is giving Russia six months to come into compliance with the treaty before it formally withdraws — though the Pentagon is already at work designing new systems, Breaking Defense reported.

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“I don’t think the demise of the INF treaty really affects the approach that we’ve taken in the MDR at all, because the MDR’s presumption is we need to defend against a growing proliferation of missile threats, period,” Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy David Trachtenberg said at a conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

“The demise of the INF treaty — let’s be clear about this — is because the Russians have violated it and repeatedly violated it for years…. That is indicative of part of the problem [that is] captured in the [Missile Defense Review]” that was recently completed by the Pentagon, he added.

U.S. officials have long argued that production and deployment of the Russian Iskander-M missile system, which has a maximum range of 480 kilometers (298 miles), is a blatant violation of the treaty. For his part, Putin argued that it made no sense for Moscow’s forces to deploy a missile in violation of INF because they already deploy them on ships and planes, which are not banned.

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