Izvestia: Putin’s INF suspension bill to act as signal for global community

Russia reserves the right to resume the implementation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at any moment despite the bill on suspending the agreement, Russian MPs told Izvestia.

According to experts, the draft legislation submitted by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday is a signal for the international community that Moscow is ready to maintain the status quo, but it plans to fully ensure its security giving a tit-for-tat response to Washington’s steps. Meanwhile, the United States has started developing earlier banned types of weapons, the paper says.

The accord was actually voided back in February 2019, when the US announced that it was suspending its provisions, and the next day Russia announced that it would act similarly. In March, Putin signed a decree on suspending the INF Treaty’s implementation and now the decision has been translated into a bill submitted to the State Duma (lower house), which is due to consider it in the first reading on June 18.

The bill says that the INF’s implementation will be put on hold and it’s up to the president to decide on further steps regarding the deal’s resumption. Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs Alexey Chepa explained that this is a tit-for-tat measure for Washington’s withdrawal from the treaty. “We did not initiate this. But we reserve the right to restore the deal, if the counter party does this. Unfortunately, the Americans are interested in fueling tensions in Europe so that NATO countries earmark more money for military spending,” the lawmaker said. “Besides, there is a powerful lobby in the US consisting of companies and politicians. They want to take advantage of the treaty’s suspension and start manufacturing weapons, and obtaining more funds. This may increase tensions on the international arena.”

Amid the INF’s suspension, a serious rift among NATO countries can be on the horizon, Chepa noted. Some countries, which are ardent supporters of US foreign policy, such as Poland and the Baltic states, may agree to the deployment of US weapons on their soil, while other European countries are likely to adopt a measured approach and will hardly agree to become “a US foothold,” he said.

Russia’s position, in any case, is to comply with the treaty until the status quo is maintained, said Director of the Franklin Roosevelt US Policy Studies Center at Moscow State University Yuri Rogulev. “In case of changes we need a Plan B. The treaty was ratified by the parliament and the new bill enables the president to decide independently on what steps to take if needed. This is first of all a signal for Europe. If the US decides to deploy such missiles on the continent, Europe will become vulnerable,” he explained.

US President Donald Trump did not hide that the key goal of the INF Treaty’s collapse is to make China and other global players join talks on arms control in the future. Meanwhile, the countries may resume the INF Treaty’s implementation if their leaders show political will. Director of the Center for Military-Political Studies at the Hudson Institute Richard Weitz believes that although the treaty in its current form has been apparently buried, Moscow and Washington are capable of working out a new agreement, which may involve other international players. Putin and Trump are highly likely to hold talks during the G20 summit in Osaka this June and focus on international security.