US leaving INF Treaty to get out of its obligations: Russia

Washington's exit from the Cold War-era treaty not a question of 'Russia's guilt', Russian foreign ministry says.

    The INF Treaty was signed by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev [Getty Images]
    The INF Treaty was signed by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev [Getty Images]

    Russia has denounced the United States's decision to leave a landmark Cold War nuclear missile treaty, saying it was part of Washington's plan to "get out of its international legal obligations".

    The US exit is not a question of "Russia's guilt", but the "strategy of the United States to get out of its international legal obligations in different areas" in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Rossiya 1 television channel on Friday.

    Zakharova said Washington provided "no evidence, no satellite photo... no evidence" to prove that Russia had violated the treaty and insisted that her country had "always agreed to hold talks on the INF Treaty".

    Zakharova was also quoted by state media as saying that if the US "really leaves the INF Treaty, Moscow reserves the right to an appropriate response".

    She added that Moscow was still open to dialogue on the issue.

    The INF Treaty was agreed during the Cold War and has been a centrepiece of arms control. It was the first treaty to ban an entire class of weapons: ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 500km and 5,500km. 

    New deal

    The US had earlier said it will suspend its compliance on the INF with Russia on Saturday. It will fully withdraw from the landmark 1987 arms control accord in six months if Moscow does not end its alleged violation of the pact.

    US President Donald Trump said Russia has not adhered to the INF Treaty but that he hopes a better pact can be reached.

    "One side has not been adhering to it," Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday.

    "We have, but one side hasn't."

    "I hope we are able to get everybody in a big and beautiful room and do a new treaty which is much better... But you have to have everybody adhere to it," the president said.

    Trump insisted the US cannot be "put at a disadvantage."

    The Kremlin denies violating the treaty.

    'Russia will bear responsibility'

    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that the alliance will continue to work with Russia to get it to respect the INF Treaty.

    In remarks to Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, Stoltenberg added that intelligence collected from many countries over many years showed Russia was breaking the treaty.

    NATO said that if Moscow failed to destroy all new missile systems that Washington says violate the pact, "Russia will bear sole responsibility for the end of the treaty".

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    Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said one of the major problems with the US withdrawal is that there is no alternative in place and "there doesn't seem to be any work in progress to develop one".

    The US and Russia met this week in Beijing to discuss the dispute but there were no reported breakthroughs in the talks. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies