- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 15, 2018

Interagency teams with members from the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence community have held a series of bilateral meetings with key European allies, preparing partner nations for Washington’s eventual withdrawal from a key non-proliferation pact with Russia.

The teams have met with several allied nations in the region, “providing key information” on the reasoning behind the Trump administration’s proposed plan to pull out from the Cold War-era pact known as the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces or INF, said Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Andrea Thompson.

“We have been reminding folks … that Russia has been in violation for five years now, over two [U.S.] administrations,” Mrs. Thompson said Thursday. “This is not about the U.S., this is not about NATO, this is about the Russian violation of the treaty,” she added during the teleconference with reporters.

Under the INF, signed between the U.S, Russia and NATO allies in 1987, all countries were banned from developing intermediate-range, nuclear-powered conventional cruise missiles. Despite being a signatory to the pact, Moscow has recently ramped up development of such weapons.

Alliance officials say the nuclear-powered cruise missile under development would allow Moscow to launch a ballistic weapon on targets inside Western Europe at a moment’s notice.

The new, nuclear-powered cruise missiles was one of several advanced weapons Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled during a March press conference, designed to showcase the former Soviet Union’s military prowess

“I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened,” the Russian leader said at the time.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said in October that such weapons development work by Moscow is “untenable” and would prompt a response from Washington and its allies.

“Make no mistake, the current situation with Russia in blatant violation of this treat is untenable, and we discussed this situation at length during this ministerial meeting among trusted allies,” the Pentagon chief said that month, while attending a NATO ministerial in Brussels.

Weeks later, Mr. Trump announced plans for the U.S. to formally withdraw from the INF treaty.

“We have done the shot across the bow with Russia … the ball is in their court,” Mrs. Thompson said.

Russian diplomats and top military brass have repeatedly refuted such claims, despite being confronted with evidence of its noncompliance by U.S. and European diplomats and intelligence officials, Mrs. Thompson said.

“There is no recognition that they are in violation on the Russian side,” despite tangible evidence to the contrary, she said, adding that the U.S. “tolerated it for years” until the Trump White House opted to take action.

She declined to comment on the nature of the talks between European allies and the American interagency teams, except to say that after recent discussions, “key partners and allies are on board.”

“We are talking through next steps … making sure there is no gap between [allies] once the president makes the decision” to eventually pull out of the missile pact, Mrs. Thompson said.

• Carlo Muñoz can be reached at cmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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