President Donald Trump said the United States is ready to bolster its nuclear arsenal after announcing it is abandoning a Cold War-era nuclear treaty, as Russia warned the withdrawal could cripple global security.
Trump sparked concern globally by saying he wanted to jettison the three-decade-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed former US president Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader.
In explaining his decision, Trump told reporters in Washington that Russia had “not adhered to the spirit of that agreement or to the agreement itself”.
“Until people come to their senses, we will build it up,” he said, referring to the country’s nuclear stockpile. “This should have been done years ago.
“It’s a threat to whoever you want. And it includes China. And it includes Russia,” the US president continued. “And it includes anybody else who wants to play that game. You can’t do that. You can’t play that game.
“Until they get smart, there’s going to be nobody that’s going to be even close to us.”
Russia, however, has warned abandoning the agreement would be a major blow to global security.
Moscow was ready to work with the United States to salvage the agreement, the Russian Security Council said after a meeting between its chief Nikolai Patrushev and US National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Bolton, who is expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, was visiting Moscow in the wake of Trump’s announcement Saturday that he wants to do away with the pact, which bans intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles.
Signed in 1987, the INF resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected claims that Moscow has violated the pact, instead accusing Washington of doing so, and called Bolton’s upcoming meeting with Putin important.
“There are more questions than answers,” he told journalists.
Trump’s announcement has raised global concerns, with the European Commission urging the US and Russia to pursue talks to preserve the treaty, and China calling on Washington to “think twice.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said a unilateral withdrawal from the treaty “will have a multitude of negative effects”.
Analysts warn the latest rift between Moscow and Washington could have lamentable consequences, dragging Russia into a new arms race.
Putin last week raised eyebrows by saying Russians would “go to heaven” in the event of nuclear war and that Moscow would not use nuclear weapons first.
“The aggressor will have to understand that retaliation is inevitable, that it will be destroyed and that we, as victims of aggression, as martyrs, will go to heaven,” he said.