Signed by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan in 1987, the INF prohibits ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, and required the destruction of all such existing weaponry at the time.
The planned US withdrawal comes amid claims Russia has not been adhering to the treaty for a number of years. Donald Trump’s White House declared that Russia was in violation of the INF in December 2018, and giving the Kremlin a 60 day period to comply or the US would begin the withdrawal from the treaty to which it had been a party for over 3 decades. The passing of this deadline lead to the statement by President Trump on February 1st announcing the US will completely withdraw from the agreement within 6 months “unless Russia comes back into compliance by destroying all of its violating missiles, launchers, and associated equipment.”
The Russian Government has in turn said that the US has been in violation of the act since 1999, and that they remain open to an ongoing discourse on disarmament. “For many years, we have been calling on numerous occasions for holding meaningful disarmament talks” President Putin said in a meeting with his Defense and Foreign ministers. “We have seen that our partners have not been supportive of our initiatives.” The Russian Government have denied violating the INF treaty, though Mr. Putin has previously said that the treaty no longer serves Russia’s interests, and is unfair as it does not apply to other countries that have since developed missiles within the same range.
Jens Stoltenberg , the Secretary General of NATO, told the BBC that “All (European) allies agree with the United States because Russia has violated the treaty for several years. They are deploying more and more of the new nuclear capable missiles in Europe.” A statement released by the organisation included that “We (NATO) continue to aspire to a constructive relationship with Russia, when Russia’s actions make that possible.”