Donald Trump Abandoning Nuclear Treaty With Russia Prompts Calls for Urgent Measures to Avoid Arms Race

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A fragment of the 9M729 missile demonstrated after a briefing for military attaches and international media by the Russian Defence Ministry at the Patriot Congress and Exhibition Centre in Kubinka, Moscow Region. The U.S. says the missile violates the INF treaty. Sergei Bobylev/TASS/Getty Images

Politicians across Europe and the United States are calling for urgent measures to be put in place in the wake of President Donald Trump's decision to abandon the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia.

On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would officially leave the treaty, which prohibits Russia and the U.S. from deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of about 300 to 3,500 miles, within six months. Trump administration officials have cited Russia's noncompliance with the treaty as the reason for leaving the deal, but many experts argue that the treaty's demise will put U.S. allies at risk.

"The withdrawal of America from the world continues unabated. Ending the INF Treaty is a gift to Russia - allows them to speed ahead with medium range nuclear weapons without the watchful eye of the U.S.," Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut tweeted Friday. "We get no benefit and loads of additional risk."

A fragment of the 9M729 missile demonstrated after a January 23 briefing for military attachés and international media by the Russian Defense Ministry. The U.S. says the missile violates the INF Treaty. Sergei Bobylev/TASS/Getty Images

Many experts have noted that numerous Russian officials never liked the treaty. But officials in Europe interpreted the news as a sign that Europe must begin to look for ways to prevent a potential arms race.

"The announced suspension of the INF-treaty by the United States is an urgent wakeup call for Europe," tweeted Manfred Weber, a member of the German parliament and a key figure in the European Parliament. "The consequences of scrapping this agreement could put us back decades. Russia's noncompliance is a serious threat to security in Europe."

He continued: "A European diplomatic initiative is urgently needed with #Russia to prevent further escalation and safeguard the commitments in the INF-treaty. Europe should take more control of its security interests in the region and the world."

On Friday, another Democratic senator, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, called on the Trump administration to find a new plan to prevent the proliferation of weapons.

"The Trump administration must carefully consider how it would prevent an arms race in the absence of the INF, and whether that includes negotiating a new treaty involving China," said Shaheen, a member of the Senate foreign relations and armed services committees. "I urge the president to consult with our trans-Atlantic allies, NATO, the U.S. intelligence community and the Senate foreign relations committee members about how to proceed and ensure there is an established strategy before the six-month period of withdrawal expires."

Many military analysts have expressed concern over the fact that China was not included in the original agreement, which the U.S. and Soviet Union signed in 1987. A senior administration official noted Friday that China and Iran have thousands of weapons like the ones banned by the treaty. Trump administration officials argue that it doesn't make sense to maintain the treaty if the U.S. is the only country that complies with it.

Still, former U.S. Representative John Tierney of Massachusetts called on Russia and the U.S. to do everything they can to save the deal. U.S. officials have said that Russia could still save the agreement if it decides to come back into compliance before the six-month deadline for withdrawal.

"We have yet to exhaust diplomatic options," Tierney said in a statement. "Barely a year ago, the Trump Administration outlined a plan to address this violation. It was never really actualized, and by October, the President casually announced his intention to abandon INF on the sidelines of a political rally."

He went on: "Instead of putting the full force of the White House behind a negotiation to fix the agreement, the Administration is willing to let this critically important treaty collapse. There is still time to save INF, and leaders in Congress should press the Administration to get back to the negotiating table."