Secretary of State Michael Pompeo was expected to use a gathering of NATO leaders on Tuesday to ramp up pressure on Russia over what the US has long said is Moscow’s failure to comply with a 1987 treaty on nuclear weapons.
The US wants to “stay in sync” with American allies over how to address Russia’s non-compliance, according to a senior State Department official who spoke to reporters en route to Brussels for the conference.
“Russia has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty for many years,” Pompeo said on Tuesday at an event organised by the German Marshall Fund in Brussels. He said he would detail the alleged Russian violations at the NATO meeting on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump said in October that he would pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying Russia has deployed missiles in violation of the accord. National Security Adviser John Bolton later said the INF is an outdated agreement that doesn’t address the rising Chinese military threat.
In Europe, however, there’s been less support for abandoning the agreement altogether.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has credited the INF treaty with playing a crucial role in ensuring security for 30 years by ending the proliferation of ground-launched intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
Trump’s announcement in October raised “difficult questions for Europe,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement at the time. While Russia has failed to resolve allegations of treaty breaches, the US should “reflect on the possible consequences” of a pullout, he added.
The Trump administration also has received opposition from key foreign policy lawmakers on Capitol Hill. On Monday, Democratic Senators Mark Warner, Jack Reed and Bob Menendez said quitting the accord unilaterally would be a “political and geostrategic gift to Russia,” allowing it to expand production and deployment of missiles the treaty sought to constrain.
Withdrawing “takes the focus away from Russia’s transgressions and malign behaviour and instead feeds a narrative that the United States is willing to shred our commitments unilaterally without any strategic alternative,” the senators wrote in a letter to Trump.
Beyond the INF accord, Pompeo will reiterate the Trump administration’s focus on getting all NATO members to spend two percent of their gross domestic product on defense, an issue the president has long focussed on as a sign of how he thinks America pays too high a price for maintaining the alliance.
Another focus of talks is expected to be Russia’s firing on and capture of Ukrainian ships and sailors in the Sea of Azov near Crimea last week. The White House said that move was the reason Trump cancelled his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina.