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Russia will act to restore balance of military power if US exits nuclear treaty: Peskov

Muslim Times(Web Desk) – Moscow has warned Washington against a plan to leave a landmark Cold War-era nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, saying it will be forced to respond in kind if the US goes ahead with the plan and begins producing the types of missiles banned by the agreement.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “Such steps [US quitting the deal], if they are undertaken, will make the world a more dangerous place.”

Moscow, he added, would be forced to respond in kind and act to restore the balance of military power should Washington choose to exit the agreement, formally called the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

US President Donald Trump said Saturday that Washington would withdraw from the INF, which was signed towards the end of Cold War in 1987 by then President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The treaty — seen as a milestone in ending the Cold War arms race between the two superpowers — banned ground-launch nuclear missiles with ranges from 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers and led to the elimination of nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles.

Leaving the INF “means that the United States is not disguising, but is openly starting to develop these systems in the future, and if these systems are being developed, then actions are necessary from other countries, in this case Russia, to restore balance in this sphere,” said Peskov.

Gorbachev had earlier condemned the US planned withdrawal as a “mistake” and said it shows Trump’s “lack of wisdom.”

Trump cited Russia’s “violations” of the deal as the reason behind the plan to exit the INF. “We’ll have to develop those weapons. We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” he said.

Peskov, however, rejected Trump’s claims and reaffirmed Moscow’s commitments to its obligations under the treaty and its intention to keep doing so.

The Russian official further said Moscow would ask the US for explanations on such a plan during talks with Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton in Moscow later in the day.

Referring to the legal procedures the US is required to follow before exiting the treaty, Peskov said the US has six months to pull out after giving an official notification, but it has not yet done so.

Earlier, Chinese Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing that it is wrong for the US to leave the treaty and that Beijing was opposed to the decision.

“The INF Treaty is an important arms control agreement reached by the US and the USSR during the Cold War,” said the official, using an acronym for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, commonly known as the Soviet Union, which existed from 1922 to 1991.

“This agreement has played an important role in stabilizing international relations, maintaining global strategic balance and stability. Today it is still extremely important,” said Hua, expressing hope that the relevant parties can “think twice about the issue of withdrawing,” in an apparent reference to the US.

Germany has become the first US ally to criticize the move, calling on the Trump administration to consider the consequences of such a move both for Europe and the future disarmament efforts.

Experts warn that leaving the agreement could provoke a dangerous arms race across Europe, akin to the one that was unfolding during 1980, but was ended by the INF.

The Trump administration’s decision seems to be consistent with its foreign policy agenda, under which it has unilaterally scrapped the 2015 multilateral deal on the Iranian nuclear program as well as the Paris climate deal and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Besides Russia and China, US allies took turns to warn against the security risks the collapse of the INF could pose to Europe.

Germany has become the first US ally to criticize the move, calling on the Trump administration to consider the consequences of such a move both for Europe and future disarmament efforts.

French President Emmanuel Macron also held a phone conversation with Trump on the matter.

“The president noted the importance of this treaty, in particular for European security and our strategic stability,” Macron’s office said of the call between the two leaders on Sunday.

The European Commission’s spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic also stressed the need for keeping the treaty in place.

“The US and the Russian federation need to remain in a constructive dialogue to preserve this treaty and ensure it is fully and verifiably implemented,” she told reporters.

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