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

Billionaire warlords: Why the future is medieval

The world's next superpower might just resurrect the Middle Ages.

Videos
  • Russia? China? No. The rising world superpower is the billionaire class. Our problem, says Sean McFate, is that we're still thinking in nation states.
  • Nation states have only existed for the last 300-400 years. Before that, wealthy groups – tribes, empires, aristocracies, etc – employed mercenaries to wage private wars.
  • As wealth inequality reaches combustion point, we could land back in the status quo ante of the Middle Ages. Who will our overlords be? Any or all of the 26 ultra-rich billionaires who own as much as the world's 3.8 billion poorest. What about Fortune 500, which is more powerful than most of the states in the world? Random billionaires, multinational corporations, and the extractive industry may buy armies and wage war on their own terms.
Keep reading Show less

Golden blood: the rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
Keep reading Show less

5 of the worst keto diet side effects

The keto diet can help with weight loss, but at what cost?

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • In addition to weight loss, there are a few well-known side effects of the keto diet, some of which can be unpleasant.
  • Some side effects of the keto diet are bound to occur, though others only happen when the diet is implemented poorly.
  • The keto diet doesn't have to lead to a host of negative side effects, but anyone considering undertaking the diet over the long term should be especially careful.
Keep reading Show less