America has officially announced plans to quit the 30-year-old Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) which aims to keep nuclear, short and intermediate weapons out of Europe. A White House insider has said the move opens up a route for the US to station previously banned missiles with European allies. Mr Trump ripped up the disarmament agreement today after Moscow failed to meet Washington’s February 2 deadline to remove missiles it believes violates the deal.
The INF Treaty, signed by US President Ronald Reagan and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, put an end to Cold War tensions by stopping both countries from keeping short and intermediate land-based missiles in Europe.
US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced the decision to tear up the accord today, a day earlier than had been expected.
Last year President Trump accused President Putin of violating the pact by stationing Novator 9M729 missiles, known as SSC-8 by NATO, in banned territory giving Moscow two months to get rid of or destroy the weapons.
The move officially begins a six-month countdown which will end with America’s permanent withdrawal from the arms accord.
However another US official added the suspension allows the decision to be “reversible” if Russia complies with Washington’s demands.
The official said if that happens “then the US would unsuspend”.
Russia has hit back at America’s accusations, admitting to the cruise missile but explaining its range means it is not covered by the treaty.
Moscow has in turn accused President Trump of created a false pretext in order to carry out his personal desire to pull out of the accord.
Analysts have said the long-running dispute is aggravating the worst US-Russia tensions since the Cold War ended in 1991 and fear a collapse of the INF Treaty could undermine other agreements aimed at capping the spread of nuclear weapons.
It significantly raises the likelihood of Europe becoming a nuclear-armed battleground between America and Russia.
In a Reuters interview, Thompson said she expected Washington to stop complying with the treaty as soon as this weekend, a move she said would allow the U.S. military to immediately begin developing its own longer-range missiles in Europe.
Mrs Thompson said: "We'll be able to suspend our treaty obligations on Feb 2.
"We'll follow all the steps that need to be taken on the treaty to suspend our obligations with the intent to withdraw."
"We are then also able to conduct the R&D and work on the systems we haven't been able to use because we've been in compliance with the treaty.
"Come February 2, this weekend, if the Department of Defense chooses to do that, they'll be able to do that."
The former Colonel added Washington remained open to further talks with Moscow about the treaty.
However Russia has made it clear its position is unchanged, with a Kremlin spokesman accusing Washington of being “unwilling to listen to any arguments and to hold substantive negotiations”.
Mr Rybakov said: “The United States imposed a 60-day period during which we had to fulfil their ultimatum.
"I conclude that the United States was not expecting any decision and all this was a game made to cover their domestic decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty."
America's NATO allies have said they "fully support" America's decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty.
A statement from the alliance said: "The United States is taking this action in response to the significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security posed by Russia's covert testing, production, and fielding of 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile systems.