Russian Officials Slam Trump’s Plans to Exit INF Nuclear Treaty

By Ann M. Simmons (Wall Street Journal)

Oct. 21, 2018 6:37 a.m. ET

Moscow dismisses U.S. claim that it is violating the 1987 pact

MOSCOW—Russia’s Foreign Ministry Sunday condemned Washington’s decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying that the move was tantamount to “blackmail” and warning that it would be “a very dangerous step,” according to the official Russian news agency TASS.

“We condemn the continuing attempts to achieve Russia’s concessions through blackmail, moreover in such an issue that has importance for international security and security in the nuclear weapons sphere [and] for maintaining strategic stability,” the news agency quoted deputy foreign minister Sergei Rybakov as saying.

On Saturday, President Donald Trump said he would withdraw the U.S. from the 1987 INF treaty, contending that Russia “violated the agreement” and raising the prospect of developing a new set of weapons.

“They have been violating it for many years,” Mr. Trump said after a campaign rally in Nevada. “And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has yet to comment on Washington’s announcement but Russia has denied violating the treaty, which was worked out by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and prohibits the use of intermediate- and shorter-range rockets, as well as testing, producing or fielding new ground-based missiles.

Russia is developing a missile system known as 9M729, though Moscow says it is in full compliance with the pact.

Mr. Ryabkov told the state-run news agency RIA Novosti that Moscow has repeatedly told Washington that “the Americans have no grounds for accusing Russia of violating this treaty.”

The diplomat said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was expected to meet with U.S. national security adviser John Bolton in Moscow on Monday, according to RIA Novosti.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Russian Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, wrote on his Facebook page that mankind was facing “full chaos in the nuclear weapons sphere” and he warned that cancellation of the INF treaty could trigger war.

“Americans are looking for any opportunities for the destruction of the system of agreements on the balance of nuclear forces in the world developed during the Cold War years,” Mr. Kosachev wrote. “The United States no longer needs a balance of power. Americans seek unilateral military superiority in the field of nuclear and conventional weapons in order to impose their will and interests on the world.”

Mr. Kosachev called for the U.N. Security Council to convene a session to discuss what he described as a “critical” situation.

Earlier this month the U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Kay Bailey Hutchison, caused a stir when she said that Washington could choose to “take out” the new Russian missiles. “They are on notice,” she said.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump said, “We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement, and we’ve honored the agreement. But Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement. So we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out.”

The Russian embassy in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The statements come as national security adviser John Bolton is headed to Russia next week for meetings.

Mr. Bolton will meet his national security counterpart in Moscow along with Russian defense and foreign ministers, according to a senior administration official.

— Alex Leary and Peter Nicholas contributed to this article.

Write to Ann M. Simmons at