European Union fears spread of nuclear arms as USA readies to quit pact

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WASHINGTON: The United States said Friday it would exit a landmark Cold War nuclear missile treaty due to purported violations by Russian Federation, which has warned of a new arms race in Europe.

Breaking a precedent set by President Ronald Reagan, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which helped dial back the long-running arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Russian Federation denies violating the treaty, which bans either side from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe. He noted it would be "irresponsible" for one side to "shatter" the treaty.

While Europeans had hoped to preserve the treaty to stem proliferation of ground-launched, intermediate-range nuclear missiles, the Trump administration argued that Russian Federation has been in violation for years anyway.

"Our NATO Allies fully support us, because they understand the threat posed by Russia's violation and the risks to arms control posed by ignoring treaty violations".

Brokered by then U.S. president Ronald Reagan and last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to address a unsafe build-up of warheads in Europe, the treaty has banned ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

The briefing also comes one day after an attempt to rescue the treaty failed.

To add further to Europe's worries, Moscow's top INF negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, warned that after the collapse of the treaty another key arms control agreement - the New START treaty - could follow.

Moscow insists the missile has a range of less than 500 kilometers. "The consequences of scrapping this agreement could put us back decades".

Trump said that on Saturday, the US will "suspend its obligations" under the treaty, meaning it will be freed from its constraints, including the testing and deployment of missiles banned by the pact.

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"The treaty is most consequential in Europe; it's the place that was protected by the treaty", said Ellen Tauscher, a former undersecretary of State for arms control and global security from 2009 to 2012.

Nuclear weapons experts at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace say US withdrawal under current circumstances is counterproductive, even though Russia's violations are a serious problem.

The announcement may aim to pressure Russian Federation to come to terms during the next six months but it also raised fears of a new U.S.

The treaty has governed arms control since 1987, and some analysts fear its demise could fuel a new arms race in Europe.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to make an announcement on the fate of the treaty at 1300 GMT Friday.

The bill would make it more hard for the Trump administration to obtain funds for the procurement, fight-testing or deployment of any ground-launched or ballistic missiles, according to the text of the legislation.

"Through its actions, the Kremlin bears responsibility for the degradation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty", Menendez said.

Zakharova was also quoted by state media as saying that if the USA "really leaves the INF Treaty, Moscow reserves the right to an appropriate response". "This is fully about Russia's violation to his treaty". The U.S. wants Russian Federation to destroy the missile, the Novator 9M729, and its launchers.

Some experts believe the collapse of the INF treaty could undermine other arms control agreements and speed an erosion of the global system created to block the spread of nuclear arms.

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