The Trump administration appears determined to pull out of a key 1987 arms control agreement with Russia, in the wake of talks Tuesday between national security adviser John Bolton and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by deploying missiles in Europe.
Bolton called Russian violations “long and deep.”
“The threat is is not America’s INF withdrawal from the treaty. The threat is Russian missiles already deployed,” Bolton said. “The American position is that Russia is in violation. Russia’s position is that they are not in violation. So, one has to ask how to ask the Russians to come back into compliance with something that don’t think they are violating.”
Bolton told reporters after the talks that formal notice of a withdrawal would be filed “in due course.”
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed the INF Treaty in 1987. It bans the United States and Russia from building, testing and stockpiling ground-launched nuclear missiles with a range 500 to 5,000 kilometers.
U.S. officials going back to the Obama administration have accused Russia of deliberately deploying a land-based cruise missile to pose a threat to NATO.
Trump said the United States would have to start developing new weapons if Russia and China — which is not part of the INF Treaty — did.
Bilateral treaties outdated?
Bolton hinted the INF deal with Russia might have run its course and that bilateral Cold War treaties might not apply to the current global security environment when other nations, including China, Iran and North Korea, have also developed missiles.
Russia denies violating the INF pact and says it is U.S. missile defense systems in Europe and other unprovoked steps that are in violation.
“On the coat of arms of the United States, there’s an eagle holding 13 arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other,” Putin reminded Bolton. “My question is whether your eagle has gobbled up all the olives, leaving only the arrows.”
Bolton replied by saying he did not bring any more olives.
In more serious remarks, a Kremlin spokesman said a U.S. pullout from the INF Treaty would make the world a more dangerous place, and Russia would have to take security countermeasures to “restore balance.”
But both sides said Tuesday there was a need for dialogue and work on areas of mutual concern.
Bolton also said Tuesday that plans were being made for Trump and Putin to meet in Paris next month. Both leaders will be in France to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
The last meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki in July turned out to be a bit of a domestic disaster for Trump. At a post-summit joint news conference, he appeared to accept Putin’s denials of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, contrary to the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies.
Bolton said he also talked about Russian interference in the U.S. elections. He said such efforts do not affect the outcome of the vote and only create distrust between the U.S. and Russia.
Bolton also laid three separate bouquets of flowers during his visit to Moscow — the traditional wreath at the World War II Memorial by the Kremlin wall; flowers to remember the victims of last week’s massacre of college students at the Black Sea port of Kerch; and flowers at the site near the Kremlin where Russian opposition leader and Putin critic Boris Nemtsov was gunned down in 2015.