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U.S. Missile Tests Spark War of Words With Russia as Fears of Arms Race Escalate

President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia has sparked fear of an arms race and, now, a war of words.

The Kremlin on Thursday responded to the Pentagon’s decision to test ground-launched cruise missiles that were banned under the landmark nuclear agreement by accusing Washington of having sought the treaty’s demise. U.S. officials have claimed that they decided to abandon the INF treaty because Russia had consistently violated the agreement. Now, Moscow and Washington are both blaming each other for having killed the treaty.  

"We categorically disagree with any reproaches against us to the effect that we have not kept our word on this accord. On the contrary, we demonstrated to all, using arguments and proof, that it is precisely the United States that became the source of dismantling this document since it in fact made breaches,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday.

gettyimages-1124889918-594x594 Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, appears at a news conference. The Kremlin on Thursday responded to the Pentagon’s decision to test ground-launched cruise missiles that were banned under the landmark nuclear agreement by accusing Washington of having sought the treaty’s demise. Mikhail Metzel/Tass/Getty Images

“It is the U.S. and not Russia that violated the provisions of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. It is the U.S. that included a provision on [research and development] on these missiles in the draft budget,” Peskov continued.

International experts have frequently pointed out that Russia’s missiles are in violation of the treaty, but there is some disagreement over whether the U.S. also violated the treaty by selling missile systems to countries like Poland and Romania.

“The Western press has often treated the Russian claim that U.S. missile defense installations have an offensive capability as rhetorical obfuscation. But publicly available information makes it clear that the U.S. Aegis-based systems in Eastern Europe, if equipped with cruise missiles, would indeed violate the INF,” reads a February essay in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by physicist and national security expert Theodore Postol.

“The Obama administration’s internal deliberations on the decision to place Aegis-based missile defenses in Poland and Romania have not been reported in the press. Neither has the precise advice the Defense Department advisers gave the president and his policy staff on the capabilities of the Aegis system. I therefore cannot say with certainty whether the Obama administration knew that, with the Aegis-ashore program, it was installing a weapons system,in Eastern Europe with offensive capabilities that violated U.S. treaty obligations,” Postol continues.

Still, experts argue there is a significant difference between violating the treaty and deploying systems that would theoretically be capable of violating it.

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 and banned all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of about 300 to 3,500 miles. Many of Washington’s European allies are worried about what the future of Europe will look like if the U.S. and Russia are once against pointing missiles at each other.

U.S. officials have said it is unclear when—or even if—Washington will deploy these missiles again. But the Pentagon’s announcement on Wednesday raised fears that an arms race might be closer than expected.

The tests of the ground-launched cruise missiles will begin in August 2019, according to the Pentagon.

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