The US secretly decided to opt out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) years ago, and has been planning to produce medium and short-range missiles —banned under the INF agreement — for almost two years already, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
The Russian military has accused the US of planning – and actively preparing – for the withdrawal from the landmark INF agreement long before the recent barrage of accusations against Moscow of violating the same agreement, used by the Trump administration as a pretext for its planned withdrawal.
Washington has apparently been headed for production of the banned munitions since at least June 2017. Back then, the US began to actively expand and modernize a factory in Arizona, belonging to the defense corporation Raytheon. The plant is the largest US facility, producing the full spectrum of missile weaponry. Over this period of almost two years, the factory’s facilities were expanded by 44 percent, while its personnel was expected to grow by 2,000, the MoD added.
At the same time, in November 2017, the Congress allocated $58 million to the Pentagon explicitly for “research and development program on a ground-launandd intermediate-range missile.” Notably, the said program was a stated goal in the US defense budget for 2018.
On Friday, Washington suspended its participation in the landmark treaty signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and vowed to leave it completely in 180 days unless Moscow caves in to its demands. The US and Russia have been trading accusations of violating the treaty for years. While Washington has claimed that Moscow covertly produces banned munitions, the latter has sounded the alarm over the US’ “missile-defense” systems stationed in Europe, saying that these systems can be used for launching offensive munitions, such as Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Following Washington’s decision, Russia suspended the INF Treaty as well, calling it a “mirror response.” Moscow expressed willingness for dialogue but says it will not be the initiator of any talks to “save” the deal.
“Let’s wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic, which is extremely important for us, them, and the entire world,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
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