U.S. Is 'Destroying the Entire Arms Control System,' Russia Warns After Trump Withdraws From Nuclear Treaty

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that the United States was aiming to destroy "the entire arms control system" in the wake of the Trump administration's announcement that it would leave the Cold War–era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

"A new era has begun, an era when the United States decides to move towards destroying the entire arms control system, which is regrettable," Moscow's top diplomat said on Monday, Russia's Tass news agency reported. "U.S. experts are already saying that the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [New START], which expires in 2021, will come next."

On Friday, President Donald Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the historic nuclear agreement within 180 days. He reiterated the administration's accusation that Russia had violated the terms of the treaty, which was signed in 1987 between former President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The treaty banned all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 300 to 3,500 miles.

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From left: Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump during the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on November 30, 2018. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images

"Russia has violated the agreement. They've been violating it for many years," Trump said in October 2018, when he first announced his government's intention to leave the treaty if Russia did not return to compliance. "We're the ones that have stayed in the agreement, and we've honored the agreement. Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement."

Moscow, conversely, has accused the U.S. of violating the agreement. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday responded to the Trump administration and withdrew his country from the treaty as well.

The New START treaty was signed in 2010 under the administration of former President Barack Obama, updating the former START I treaty signed by President George H.W. Bush. The agreement between Russia and the U.S., which went into effect in 2011, aimed to reduce the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers by half, while also establishing a new inspection and verification regime. It's unclear whether Trump would withdraw from New START or allow it to expire if he were to win reelection in 2020.

"We don't seek to launch a new arms race; the president [Putin] has made it quite clear," Lavrov said Monday. However, he said Russia would "definitely give military and technical responses to the threats that are emerging following the U.S. pullout from the INF Treaty." The foreign minister also raised concerns that Washington was "dramatically" lowering the "threshold for the use of nuclear weapons" while increasing "the risk of a nuclear conflict."

From left: Former President Ronald Reagan and former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev during a welcoming ceremony at the White House on the first day of their disarmament summit, on December 8, 1987. JEROME DELAY/AFP/Getty Images

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week that it appeared as if Washington wasn't interested in negotiations about the treaty. "The Americans' reluctance to hear any arguments, their reluctance to conduct any substantive negotiations, suggests that the decision to dismantle the treaty was made by Washington a long time ago," he told reporters, Tass reported.

Washington's withdrawal also came as the U.S. has begun constructing its first long-range nuclear weapons since 1991, according to The New York Times. Other nuclear powers cited that decision as justification to enhance their own arsenals.

Meanwhile, Iranian and Russian media reported that Moscow would seek to form a new nuclear pact with China, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and India in response to Trump's INF withdrawal.

"Now that the U.S. has shown readiness to practice the innovative measures we have taken in the past 10 years, then Russia will be seeking to build a non-proliferation mechanism for nuclear missiles with a number of countries," Vladimir Shamanov, head of the Russian State Duma Defense Committee, was quoted as saying, according to Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency.