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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.

Go deeper:

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.

Go deeper

FBI, Homeland Security warn of increasing threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report reviewed by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says an unidentified group of extremists discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

14 mins ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).