Russia threatens ‘retaliation’ after U.S. declares plan to withdraw from arms treaty

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. will withdraw from the 1987 agreement unless Russia falls back into compliance.

  • The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was an agreement between the Soviet Union and the U.S. to ban mid-ranged, nuclear-tipped missiles.
  • Both Russia and the U.S. have accused each other of violating the pact in recent years.
  • As it stands, Russia has 60 days to return to terms agreed upon in the deal or the U.S. will withdraw from the pact.

Russian officials said Wednesday that the United States' decision to withdraw from a long-standing arms agreement would be met with "retaliation" from Moscow in the form of developing new, previously banned nuclear weapons.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that Russia is "in material breach" of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and the U.S. plans to withdraw from the pact in 60 days unless Russia falls back into compliance. The INF was a landmark agreement between the U.S. and former Soviet Union that banned mid-range, nuclear-tipped missiles, and resulted in the destruction of more than 2,500 missiles. Both nations have accused each other of violating the treaty multiple times since signing the pact.

In October, U.S. officials announced plans to withdraw from the treaty, alleging that Russia had been violating the treaty for years, particularly with its new SSC-8 ground-fired cruise missile. President Donald Trump said as much at a rally in October, and the comments ostensibly prompted Putin to later say that Russians will "go to heaven" in the event of nuclear war, while the "aggressors" — presumably Americans — will be annihilated and "won't even have time to repent."

On Wednesday, Putin said U.S. officials offer "no proof of violations on our side," and noted that the U.S. has, for months, been researching the development of weapons banned under the treaty — though researching such weapons isn't banned by the pact.

We are against destruction of the treaty," Putin added. "But if it happens, we will react accordingly.

Why withdrawal could benefit the U.S.

With credible evidence suggesting Russia has for years been violating the INF and shows no signs of stopping, the U.S. has little to gain by sticking to the treaty as it stands. Withdrawal, it seems, could be the smarter play because it'd allow the U.S. to take up strategic positions in the Pacific, as Elbridge Colby, director of the defense program at the Center for a New American Security, wrote for the Washington Post in October.

The most compelling reason for withdrawal is that the United States could materially improve the military balance against China in East Asia by developing and deploying INF-noncompliant systems. China poses a much larger and more sophisticated long-term military threat than Russia, and U.S. strike options are more constrained by the geography of the Pacific. Washington would benefit from having the ability to deploy survivable land-based ballistic and cruise missile systems to provide a larger, more diverse and resilient greater strike capability in the event of a conflict in the western Pacific.

Nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and Russia

Although both nations don't disclose the exact amount of nuclear weapons under their control, the Arms Control Association and Federation of American Scientists suggest the following numbers:

Russia

  • Total nuclear weapons: ~6,800
  • Total nuclear tests: ~ 715
  • First tested: August 1949
  • Most recent test: October 1990

United States

  • Total nuclear weapons: ~ 6,550
  • Total nuclear tests: ~ 1,030
  • First tested: July 1945
  • Most recent test: September 1992

Russia sends humanoid robot to space, fails to dock with ISS

The Russian-built FEDOR was launched on a mission to help ISS astronauts.

Photos by TASS\TASS via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Russia launched a spacecraft carrying FEDOR, a humanoid robot.
  • Its mission is to help astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
  • Such androids can eventually help with dangerous missions likes spacewalks.
Keep reading Show less

Human extinction! Don't panic; think about it like a philosopher.

Most people think human extinction would be bad. These people aren't philosophers.

Shutterstock
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new opinion piece in The New York Times argues that humanity is so horrible to other forms of life that our extinction wouldn't be all that bad, morally speaking.
  • The author, Dr. Todd May, is a philosopher who is known for advising the writers of The Good Place.
  • The idea of human extinction is a big one, with lots of disagreement on its moral value.
Keep reading Show less

this incredibly rich machinery – with Antonio Damasio

Picking up where we left off a year ago, a conversation about the homeostatic imperative as it plays out in everything from bacteria to pharmaceutical companies—and how the marvelous apparatus of the human mind also gets us into all kinds of trouble.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "Prior to nervous systems: no mind, no consciousness, no intention in the full sense of the term. After nervous systems, gradually we ascend to this possibility of having to this possibility of having minds, having consciousness, and having reasoning that allows us to arrive at some of these very interesting decisions."
  • "We are fragile culturally and socially…but life is fragile to begin with. All that it takes is a little bit of bad luck in the management of those supports, and you're cooked…you can actually be cooked—with global warming!"



Keep reading Show less