When the United States informed Russia Saturday that it was formally suspending a landmark nuclear arms control treaty that had been a centerpiece of European security for three decades, it was more than just the demise of a cold war-era accord.
The January test of the Burevestnik comes shortly after the release of the United States' 2019 Missile Defense Review, which called for the development of a range of new technologies to augment existing US defensive capabilities against cruise and ballistic missile threats. A spokesman for President Putin said the USA failed to negotiate in good faith. "They have announced that they will engage in research and development programs; we will do the same". It was the first arms control measure to ban an entire class of weapons: ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 500 kilometres and 5,500 kilometres. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, announcing the decision at a news conference, said that Washington still wanted to engage in arms control negotiations with Russian Federation and hoped Moscow would come into compliance.
The US in December gave Moscow a 60-day deadline to dismantle missiles it said breached the agreement.
Moscow's relations with the West are strained over issues including Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, allegations of meddling in the United States presidential election and being behind a nerve agent attack in Britain.
"The loss of the treaty creates a real possibility of an unpredictable and unconstrained US-Russian arms race in Europe and, potentially, in Northeast Asia as well", said Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former US ambassador to Russia, in an article posted on the council's website on Friday.
In a Kremlin transcript of a meeting with his foreign minister and defense minister (above), Putin said that Russia's response would be "symmetrical".
Putin emphasised that such new weapons won't be deployed unless the USA does so first.
The Russian leader said that Moscow remains open to talks with Washington, but added that it would be up to the USA to take the first step. He handed down instructions to refrain from initiating talks with Washington on the issue and stressed that the U.S. needed to show readiness for an equal and substantive dialogue.
"We Europeans can not remain spectators of our own security", said French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly.
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He noted Shoigu's report that a key stage in testing of the Poseidon was completed several days ago.
The moves have raised concerns about a new arms race. The agreement aimed to cut the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers by half while creating a new inspection and verification system. He said the military must reconfigure the existing defence budget to find money for the new weapons.
While the threat of nuclear war subsided considerably after the fall of the USSR, the current chaos in the global sphere has sparked fears that a renewed arms race between the USA and Russian Federation may be in the works.
"The character and the timing of the works provide an irrefutable proof that the USA administration had made a decision to pull out of the INF treaty years before making unfounded claims of Russian violations", it said. Mr Trump's presidency has been marked by the United States withdrawing from a number of bilateral or multilateral deals - the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, and now the treaty with Russian Federation.
Ground-launched missiles were banned under the INF, but not sea or air-launched ones, which Russian Federation already possesses and that can be used to create the new systems.
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Technically, a United States withdrawal would take effect six months after this week's notification, leaving a small window for saving the treaty.
China's missile forces are a pillar of its national security strategy aimed at removing the influence of USA forces in the Asia-Pacific region. In any case, it seems unlikely Beijing would agree to any negotiated limits on its weaponry.
The INF Treaty represented a good-faith effort between two rivals to de-escalate the threat of nuclear war, particularly the risk of short-notice attacks. The weapons are a means to prevent American forces from intervening in issues related to Taiwan, which China sees as a renegade province, or the South China Sea, which Beijing regards as being within its sphere of influence.