The United States will withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons agreement with Russia, President Donald Trump has confirmed.
Trump said Russia has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The Cold War pact helps protect the security of the US and its allies in Europe and the Far East and bans the US and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles.
“Russia has violated the agreement. They have been violating it for many years,” Trump told reporters after a rally in Elko, Nevada.
”I don’t know why President [Barack] Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out.
“And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to.”
The agreement has constrained the US from developing new weapons, but Trump said America will begin developing them unless Russia and China agree not to possess or develop the weapons.
China is not currently involved in the pact.
“We’ll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and they say let’s really get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons, but if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it, and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable,” he said.
In 2014, the US accused Russia of violating the same agreement after it said that Russia tested a ground-launched cruise missile in a bid to pose a threat to Nato.
Barack Obama did not pull out of the agreement reportedly due to concerns from European leaders that the decision could trigger an arms race.
The administration tried to convince Moscow to respect the INF treaty but made little progress.
Trump said: “If they get smart and if others get smart and they say let’s not develop these horrible nuclear weapons, I would be extremely happy with that, but as long as somebody’s violating the agreement, we’re not going to be the only ones to adhere to it.”
US National Security Adviser John Bolton is heading to Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.
His first stop is Moscow to meet with senior Russian officials at a time when Moscow-Washington relations remain frosty over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race and upcoming US midterm elections.
Russia has claimed that US missile defences violate the pact.