- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that President Trump had “no choice” but to take the U.S. out of a Cold War-era short-range nuclear weapons ban treaty with Russia because the Kremlin had been flagrantly violating the pact for years.

The Trump administration announced in February the decision to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), after last-ditch diplomatic attempts failed and Russia’s refusal to come into compliance. Russia denies it has violated its obligations under the INF.

Speaking at the NATO Engages event in Washington Wednesday, Mr. Pence said “the United States was forced to take this action due to the significant risk posed to NATO member states by Russia’s covert testing production and deployment of non-INF compliant ground-launch cruise missile systems.”

Russia has until July when the treaty will be officially voided and the U.S. would no longer be bound by the INF’s blanket ban on the production of mid-range nuclear weapons. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, addressing a joint session of Congress earlier Wednesday, lamented the demise of the treaty but said other NATO nations fully shared Mr. Trump’s concerns about Russian actions.

“At the urging of our NATO allies, America remained open to an ongoing dialogue with Russia with the hopes that she could see her way clear to full INF compliance,” Mr. Pence said. “But Russia refused to live up to its own treaty obligations, refused to respond to the concerns of the united states and our allies in NATO.”

The vice president declared that unless Russia agrees to the unlikely move to destroy all violating missile systems, they “will bear the sole responsibility for America’s withdrawal in the next six months.”

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