U.S. Plans to Leave Russian Nuclear Deal, but Is Still Consulting Allies, Official Says

By Courtney McBride (Wall Street Journal)

Nov. 27, 2018 2:50 p.m. ET

Coats to brief NATO colleagues at Brussels meeting this week on ‘threat’ from Moscow and how to respond

WASHINGTON—The U.S. remains on a path to withdraw from a landmark nuclear-arms-control agreement with Russia, citing alleged violations by Moscow, but continues to consult with its allies on the decision, the Trump administration’s top intelligence official said.

“We are still pursuing this issue,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told reporters on Tuesday. He said he will brief European allies at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting in Brussels this week “in terms of what the threat [from Russia] is and in terms of how we might respond to it.”

President Trump in October announced his intention to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which bars the signatories from developing or using ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,400 miles), citing the alleged violations.

Mr. Coats said the U.S. still plans to exit the 1987 treaty but there is no set timeline for the move.

“The intelligence community assesses Russia has flight tested, produced and deployed cruise missiles with a range capability that are prohibited by the treaty,” Mr. Coats said. “Russia has shown no sign that it is willing to acknowledge its violation, let alone return to full and verifiable compliance.”

At issue is Russia’s development of the 9M729 missile, the existence of which Moscow denied until presented with U.S. evidence. Russia continues to deny that the 9M729 reaches ranges governed by the INF treaty.

The planned U.S. withdrawal has faced opposition both at home and abroad, with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers questioning the administration’s approach and European allies calling for further efforts to bring Russia into compliance.

John Bolton, national-security adviser to the president, told The Wall Street Journal in October that the administration was “going to be doing a lot of consultation with allies in Europe and Asia [and] certainly we’re going to have more discussions with Russia.”

Mr. Coats suggested there remains a narrow path for Russia to keep the U.S. in the treaty, if Moscow admitted the alleged violation and eliminated the missiles.

“We need full, verifiable elimination of all missiles that fall in this category if we’re going to go forward,” Mr. Coats said.

Write to Courtney McBride at courtney.mcbride@wsj.com

Appeared in the November 28, 2018, print edition as 'U.S. Recommits to Leaving Nuclear Accord.'