Russia has formally pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) after previously signalling that it would take this historic step after the White House announced last month that the US would suspend all obligations under the treaty. President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday formally enacting and finalizing Russia’s suspension of the INF Treaty, which was set to expire in less than six months and subject of heightened tensions after both sides have repeatedly accused the other of having been in violation of its terms for years.
The success of the Reagan-era agreement was felt primarily in that it resulted in the enduring demilitarization on the European continent in the final years of the Cold War. But Russia now worries Washington could station ballistic missiles in Europe now that the deal has collapsed. According the text of the new decree published by the Kremlin on Monday, the INF could potentially be revived in Russia's eyes but only if the US “eliminates its earlier violations of its obligations” under the deal.
An official translation of the text issued by TASS reads: "Given the need to take urgent measures following the United States’ violation of its obligations under the Treaty, signed by the Soviet Union and the United States on December 8, 1987... Russia’s compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is hereby suspended until the US addresses the violation of obligations under the Treaty or until the Treaty is terminated."
The Russian Foreign Ministry will send notice of the suspension to the United States, which the Kremlin says enters into force on the day of signing.
In a meeting with his top generals early last month, Putin's words had been harsh but expressed patience after Washington's declared pull out: “Let’s wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic, which is extremely important for us, them, and the entire world,” he said at the time.
But he had also lashed out during the press conference that followed the meeting with top officials, and described:
Over many years, we have repeatedly suggested staging new disarmament talks, on all types of weapons. Over the last few years, we have seen our initiatives not supported. On the contrary, pretexts are constantly sought to demolish the existing system of international security.
Russia's complaints have focused on US use of intermediate-range missiles as targets for developing anti-missile technologies, which effectively means that banned missiles were deployed under the guise of testing purposes, as well as the AEGIS Ashore missile system, stationed in Romania and Poland, but which Russia has condemned as offensive in nature and focused on contravening Moscow.