President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill suspending Russia’s participation in a pivotal nuclear arms treaty.
Putin’s decree, released on Wednesday, formalizes Russia’s departure from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with the United States following Washington’s withdrawal from the pact.
The U.S. gave notice of its intention to withdraw from the INF in February, setting the stage for it to terminate in six months unless Moscow returns to compliance. Russia has denied any breaches, and accused the U.S. of violating the pact. Moscow followed Washington’s example in February, also suspending its obligations under the treaty.
The INF treaty, signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, banned production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres (310 to 3,410 miles).
The intermediate-range weapons were seen as particularly destabilizing as they take a shorter time to reach their targets compared to the intercontinental ballistic missiles. That would leave practically no time for decision-makers, raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning.
Putin has vowed that Russia will not be the first to deploy new intermediate-range missiles and warned the U.S. against deploying new missiles in Europe, saying that Russia will retaliate by fielding new fast weapons that will take just as little time to reach their targets.
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