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Bolton relays Trump's message to Russia: U.S. out of arms control treaty

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

National Security Adviser John Bolton has relayed to his Russian counterpart President Trump's "strong, clear and precise words" on the Nevada tarmac on Saturday: "We’re going to terminate the agreement and we're going to pull out" of the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, according to a senior official accompanying the U.S. delegation in Moscow.

Behind the scenes: In a meeting in Moscow on Monday morning, Bolton made it his first agenda item to convey the Trump administration's intention to the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Patrushev.

Why it matters: The INF treaty was formed out of an historic 1986 meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. The treaty banned nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.  The agreement was viewed as an important, confidence-building step in reducing the risk of the Cold War turning into a nuclear holocaust. 

  • But Russia has been violating the treaty for years and the agreement is now preventing the U.S. from deploying new weapons to counter China's arms build-up in the Pacific.
  • The NYT's David Sanger and William Broad mention the consequences of the U.S. leaving: "The question is whether the decision to leave [the treaty] will accelerate the increasingly Cold War-like behavior among the three superpowers: the United States, Russia and China."

What's next? Bolton is in Moscow for a continuation of the talks kicked off at the Helsinki summit during the summer. Bolton met with his Russian counterpart last month in Geneva — and they're trying to find areas of mutual interest that the U.S. and Russia can work together on, amid a backdrop of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

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Editor's note: This piece has been clarified to better reflect the fact that Bolton reiterated Trump's comments during his tarmac appearance Saturday when speaking to his Russian counterpart.

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