Time runs out for the fate of the INF Treaty as the 60-day grace period given by the U.S. to Russia expires on 2nd February. The U.S. is expected to unilaterally suspend adherence from the Treaty’s provisions according to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo‘s statement earlier in December. The U.S. Under-Secretary of State Andrea Thompson reiterated on Wednesday that the December ultimatum was given to pressure Moscow to respect its INF Treaty commitments. However, the U.S. Under-Secretary expressed her hope that deliberations will intensify in the coming hours to salvage the spirit of INF Treaty. For this reason, the U.S. plan to suspend the Treaty provisions but not withdraw from it, allowing a second 180-day transitional period, to facilitate Moscow take corrective action with respect to its Treaty commitments.
The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was signed by the Cold War counterparts on 8 December 1987 in Washington. Under the INF Treaty, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Secretary-General Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to banish ground-based ballistic and cruise missile systems. The range of ballistic systems falling under prohibition can extend up to 5.500 kilometres. Since then, successive U.S. administrations have criticised Russia for a series of INF Treaty violations including among other things the presence of a cruise missile arsenal capable of hitting ballistic targets within the targeted radius. The Kremlin countered these criticisms shifting instead the burden of responsibility for the collapse of the INF Treaty to Washington. According to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the U.S. has first violated the INF Treaty’s clauses, upon installing missile defence systems in Europe near Russia’s neighbourhood and the Middle East. A possible U.S. withdrawal from the treaty infers that Washington and Moscow may uninterruptedly develop and dispatch new ballistic missile systems to their allied partners in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Middle East.