Russia will exit INF nuclear missile treaty in 6 months

Russia says it will mirror the United States’ withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty between the countries, formally exiting the agreement in six months.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced the move in a report from state news agency RIA-Novosti on Wednesday.

It comes after the Trump administration last week said it would be pulling out of the nuclear missile treaty, accusing Russia of violating its terms since 2014. Moscow rejects the accusations.

The US-Russia treaty, which was signed in December 1987 by US President Ronald Reagan and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev, bans ground-launched missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, and has been a centerpiece of European security since the Cold War.

In the RIA-Novosti report, Lavrov called the US accusations “unfounded,” adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s position was to “respond in a mirrored fashion” to the US.

“The Americans suspended their participation in this treaty — we did the same,” Lavrov said.

“After a six-month period, according to the results of the official note of the United States on withdrawal from this treaty, it will cease to function,” he added.

US President Trump and his senior officials had been signaling for months that they were ready to pull out of the agreement. Last week the US declared it would do so, unless Moscow complied with its terms within 180 days.

The withdrawal has raised concerns about a renewed arms race with Moscow and put European allies on edge.

“We are heading into a direction we have not been in in 40 years: no arms control limits or rules that we are both following, and that is very dangerous,” said Lynn Rusten, a senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council during the Obama administration and now a vice president at the Washington DC-based Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Russia carries out intercontinental ballistic missile test

On the same day that Lavrov confirmed that Russia would be pulling out of the treaty in six months, the country’s military announced it had carried out a successful test of a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile — a system designed to carry thermonuclear warheads.

In a statement on its Facebook page on Wednesday, the Russian Military of Defense said the missile was fired from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, in northern Russia, towards the country’s far east.

The long-range missile was launched to test its “tactical, technical and flight characteristics,” the military said.

The US military also tests unarmed intercontinental ballistic missiles several times a year, launching them from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and over the Pacific Ocean to the Marshall Islands.