Mike Pompeo speaking at lectern (© Andrew Harnik/AP Images)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Russia's violation of the INF Treaty is an attempt to put the U.S. "at a military disadvantage." (© Andrew Harnik/AP Images)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States is suspending its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and will withdraw in six months because of Russia’s refusal to destroy a new ground-launched cruise missile that “puts millions of Europeans and Americans at greater risk.”

The suspension takes effect February 2.

“The security of the American people must be our greatest consideration … and countries must be held accountable when they break the rules,” Pompeo said on February 1.

The United States has raised more than 30 times over almost six years with Russian officials of all levels the issue of Russia’s violating the 1987 treaty. Beginning in 2013, Moscow repeatedly denied even the existence of the treaty-violating SSC-8/9M729, a mobile, ground-launched cruise missile capable of hitting targets within the prohibited range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Brief history of INF Treaty and Russian violations (State Dept.; Photo: © Shutterstock)Russia only acknowledged the missile’s existence after the United States publicly identified it in 2017.

“When an agreement is so brazenly disregarded and our security is so openly threatened, we must respond,” said Pompeo. On behalf of President Trump, he thanked the NATO allies for standing “with us in our mission to uphold the rule of law and protect our people.”

Immediately after Pompeo spoke, NATO issued a statement fully supporting the U.S. move and saying that if Russia doesn’t comply within the six months, “Russia will bear sole responsibility for the end of the treaty.”

Pompeo said Russia has sought to put the United States at a military disadvantage. “We provided Russia an ample window of time to mend its ways,” he said. But on February 2 “that time runs out.”

If Russia does not comply within six months “by verifiably destroying its INF-violating missiles, their launchers and associated equipment, the treaty will terminate,” he said.

Pompeo said the United States remains “hopeful that we can put our relationship with Russia back on a better footing, but the onus is on Russia to change course from a pattern of destabilizing activity, not just on this issue, but on many others as well.”

Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea in 2014 and aggression in Ukraine has strained relations with NATO and Russia’s neighbors in Europe.

Pompeo said it is Russia’s violation that poses the risk of another arms race.