US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that Washington will withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty because Russia is violating the terms of the agreement. Russia condemned the move.

The Russian nuclear submarine Dmitry Donskoy moored near Kronstadt, a seaport town 30 km west of St Petersburg, Russia, on July 29, 2017.
The Russian nuclear submarine Dmitry Donskoy moored near Kronstadt, a seaport town 30 km west of St Petersburg, Russia, on July 29, 2017. (AP Archive)

US National Security Adviser John Bolton faces two days of high-tension talks in Moscow beginning on Monday after President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty.

Trump's announcement that the United States would leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty brought sharp criticism on Sunday from Russian officials and from former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the treaty in 1987 with President Ronald Reagan.

Trump said Russia has violated terms of the treaty that prohibit the US and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying ground-launched nuclear cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres (300 to 3,400 miles).

TRT World spoke to Lucy Taylor in Moscow for more.

"Very dangerous step"

Russia has repeatedly denied allegations that it has produced and tested such a missile.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as telling state news agency Tass that leaving the treaty "would be a very dangerous step."

It would "cause the most serious condemnation from all members of the international community who are committed to security and stability."

Konstatin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia's upper house of parliament, said on Facebook that a US withdrawal from the treaty would mean "mankind is facing full chaos in the nuclear weapons sphere."

"Washington's desire to turn back politics cannot be supported. Not only Russia, but also all who cherish the world, especially a world without nuclear weapons, must declare this," Gorbachev was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency.

Mixed world reaction

British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the UK stands "absolutely resolute" with Washington on the issue and called on the Kremlin to "get its house in order," according to the Financial Times.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Trump's announcement "raises difficult questions for us and Europe," but noted that Russia hasn't cleared up allegations of violating the treaty.

China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday that it is wrong of the United States to unilaterally pull out.

She said Beijing was opposed to the withdrawal.

The Kremlin hasn't directly commented on Trump's statement, but spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday that "after the last statements, explanations of the American side will be required."

Bolton and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet on Tuesday. 

On Monday, Bolton meets with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

US Senator Bob Corker, a member of Trump's Republican Party, warned that withdraw from the INF could lead to undoing other arms treaties.

But he suggested that Trump's statement could be aimed at pressuring Moscow rather than a firm determination to leave the treaty.

"Maybe this is just a move to say, look ... if you don't straighten up we're moving out of this," he said Sunday on CNN. "And I hope that's the case."

Senator Rand Paul, also a Republican, pointed the finger at Bolton, saying on Fox News that he is likely the one advising Trump to withdraw and "I don't think he recognises the important achievement of Reagan and Gorbachev on this."

The prospect of withdrawing from the INF adds to the substantial tensions between Washington and Moscow, including allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and sanctions imposed over Russia's involvement in the eastern Ukraine conflict.

On Friday, the US announced criminal charges against a Russian for alleged attempts to influence next month's midterm elections.

The treaty helps protect the security of the US and its allies in Europe and the Far East, but has constrained the US from developing new weapons.

The US will begin developing them unless Russia and China agree not to possess or develop the weapons, Trump said. China isn't a party to the pact.

"We'll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say 'let's really get smart and let's none of us develop those weapons,' but if Russia's doing it and if China's doing it, and we're adhering to the agreement, that's unacceptable," he said.

Trump didn't provide details about violations. But in 2017, White House national security officials said Russia had deployed a cruise missile in violation of the treaty.

Earlier, the Obama administration accused the Russians of violating the pact by developing and testing a prohibited cruise missile.

Russia has repeatedly denied that it has violated the treaty and has accused the US of not being in compliance.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies