INF Treaty End Is Near After Pompeo Gives Russia An Ultimatum

“I regret that we now most likely will see the end of the INF Treaty,” North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared after America's top diplomat put Russia on a 60-day notice, according to Bloomberg

Russia now has two months to enter compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) according to a new ultimatum issued by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while in Brussels meeting with NATO leaders on Tuesday.  

Image source: Reuters

“We must confront Russian cheating on their nuclear obligations,” Pompeo said at the conclusion of the NATO meeting, claiming the U.S. has warned Russia to re-enter compliance about 30 times over the past five years. He urged the West to increase pressure, arguing it can no longer “bury its head in the sand” over repeat violations.

But for the first time Pompeo signaled it's not too late to salvage the treaty, despite Trump already saying the US it taking steps to pull out: he said Washington "would welcome a Russian change of heart."

On Oct. 20 President Trump first announced the United States' planned withdrawal from the historic treaty brokered by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan in 1987. At the time Russia's Foreign Ministry slammed the move as "a very dangerous step" which is ultimately part of "continuing attempts to achieve Russia’s concessions through blackmail". Russian officials have issued the counter-charge that it is the US that's out of compliance with the treaty. 

European leaders have been generally reluctant to abandon the deal altogether, even while being in agreement with the US position that Russia has violated the treaty for years, specifically by deploying ground-launched missiles within the range banned under the treaty (500 kilometers/311 miles to 5,500 kilometers). In the past NATO has credited the INF with ensuring 30 years of peace by preventing and ultimately ending the proliferation of ground-launched intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

US officials, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, have argued that the treaty is outdated and doesn't account for China or North Korea as rising technologically advanced threats — something which Pompeo alluded to on Tuesday. 

An official NATO statement didn't allude to the the two-month deadline, but the 29-nation alliance demanded that the Kremlin show compliance “urgently.”

NATO's top official now says the writing is on the wall. Secretary-General Stoltenberg said the US two-month compliance ultimatum is a "last chance" while also nothing that "we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty,” he said in statements to reporters after Tuesday's NATO meeting. “We don’t want a new arms race, we don’t want a new Cold War,” Stoltenberg added.