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Pompeo sets 60-day deadline to keep arms control pact with Russia

Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday the United States will begin withdrawing from a landmark arms control treaty in 60 days unless Russia stops cheating, setting a hard deadline for the first time during a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Some U.S. allies and critics in Congress have warned that President Donald Trump, who first threatened to abandon the pact in October, would endanger Europe if he tears up the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was signed by the United States and Soviet Union in 1987 near the end of the Cold War.

But the White House got strong backing Tuesday from fellow members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the 29-member military alliance originally set up in Europe to counter Soviet aggression.

In a statement, NATO said it was "up to Russia" to stop violating the INF treaty, which required the two superpowers to eliminate and permanently forswear all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (about 300 miles to about 3,400 miles).

"Allies have emphasized that the situation whereby the United States and other parties fully abide by the Treaty and Russia does not, is not sustainable," the NATO statement said.

The Reagan-era pact marked the first time Washington and Moscow agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and use extensive on-site inspections for verification, according to arms control experts.

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As a result, the two nations destroyed nearly 2,700 missiles by the treaty's implementation in mid-1991.

The U.S. began accusing Russia of violating the treaty in 2014 by building a ground-launched cruise missile that could fly farther than the allowed range, and has repeated the allegation every year since. Russia has denied violating the agreement.

Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, said last week that Russia has tested and deployed missiles capable of flying farther than 500 kilometers (about 300 miles) from fixed and mobile launchers.

In recent months, Coats added, Russia has fielded "multiple battalions" of the missiles, posing "a direct conventional and nuclear threat against most of Europe and parts of Asia."

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