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U.S. to withdraw from landmark Cold War missile treaty

Trump and Putin at the G20. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Image

The U.S. will formally notify Russia tomorrow that it is pulling out of the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, signed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

The backdrop: Both the Obama and Trump administrations have accused Russia of violating the treaty, which bans nuclear and conventional ground-launched missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in December that Russia had 60 days to return to compliance, or the U.S. would pull out. China, meanwhile, is unconstrained by the treaty and has an arsenal of such missiles.

What’s next: The treaty includes a six-month window before withdrawal is finalized, but U.S. officials don't expect a change in Russia's posture during that period. A senior administration official told reports that the U.S. is “not going to be in a position to go immediately deploying missiles” six months from now.

"Let's be clear: if there is an arms race, it’s Russia that started it.”
— Senior administration official

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