- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2018

The Trump administration plans to notify Russia next week that the U.S. is preparing to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, The New York Times and The Guardian reported Friday, citing U.S. officials and foreign diplomats.

White House national security adviser John R. Bolton is expected to deliver the news to Russian President Vladimir Putin on a trip to Moscow. President Trump has been moving to withdraw from the 1987 treaty because Russia has violated it for years, and it limits U.S. flexibility on deploying new weapons.

The White House did not immediately respond for comment.

Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said withdrawing from the INF treaty “before adequately consulting with our allies and exploring all diplomatic avenues to resolve Russia’s violations jeopardizes American and European security.”

“President Reagan concluded this treaty to reduce the risk of war in Europe,” Mr. Engel said. “We owe it to our allies and to the American people to do everything we can to bring Russia back into compliance and preserve peace. A quick withdrawal will simply be a win for Russia and clear the way for our chief adversary to expand its missile arsenal.”

The U.S. has been arguing for years that Russia is in violation of the treaty by deploying tactical nuclear weapons to threaten former Soviet-controlled countries that are now friendly with the West.

The treaty bans land-based cruise missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. While Russia has denied violating the pact, Pentagon officials have been increasingly vocal in accusing Moscow of breaking the agreement.

During a NATO meeting this month, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis suggested a decision on the treaty was imminent.

“I want the advice from the NATO nations, what do we do with a treaty that two nations entered into, one is still living by — that’s us, the United States — and Russia is not,” Mr. Mattis told reporters. “So I’m going to lay out the situation, which we’ve discussed before here at NATO. But I want their advice as I return to Washington, D.C., and enter into these discussions.”

He added, “It’s a decision for the president. But I can tell you that both on Capitol Hill and in the State Department, there’s a lot of concern about the situation. And I’ll return with the advice of our allies and engage that discussion to determine the way ahead.”

Russia must return to compliance with the INF Treaty, or the U.S. will need to respond to its cavalier disregard of the treaty’s specific limits,” Mr. Mattis said. “Make no mistake: The current situation with Russia in blatant violation of this treaty is untenable.”

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