John Bolton said Russia had been violating treaty for years and rising powers such as China meant there is a ‘new strategic reality’
The US national security adviser, John Bolton, has confirmed that the US will withdrawal from the landmark intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty (INF) after meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin and senior Russian officials.
Speaking in Moscow, Bolton said that Russia had been violating the treaty for years and that rising powers such as China meant that it was a “new strategic reality out there”.
Bolton also said that China’s cyber-attacks against the United States made Russia seem like the “junior partner”. He did not go into detail.
The INF was a “bilateral treaty in a multipolar ballistic missile world”, Bolton said, adding that no formal steps had yet been taken but that the US would exit the treaty “in due course”.
The treaty, concluded in 1987, barred the United States and Russia from deploying missiles with a range from 500 to 5,500 km, and largely was credited with banishing nuclear missiles from Europe.
Bolton avoided directly answering questions from press about whether “we’ll soon be seeing US missiles in Europe”, saying only that the single country constrained by the INF treaty was the United States.
“It is the American position that Russia is in violation,” Bolton said at Interfax, the same press agency where he discussed US plans to withdrawal from the anti-ballistic missile treaty in 2001. “Russia’s position is that they aren’t. So one has to ask how to ask the Russians to come back into compliance with something they don’t think they’re violating.”
Bolton also announced that Putin would meet with Donald Trump for talks when the two leaders are in Paris next month for the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, marking the formal end of the first world war.
It will be the first meeting between the two presidents since their controversial Helsinki summit in July, and just their fourth meeting in person since Trump became president.
Russia played up the meeting, with a Kremlin aide saying the talks would be “a full-fledged meeting. There will be serious preparations.”
Bolton met with Putin at the Kremlin on Tuesday, where he came to explain the US exit from the INF. The Russian leader joked that the US seal showed an eagle carrying olives branches and arrows. “The question is: did your eagle already eat all the olives and only the arrows are left?”
“Hopefully I’ll have some answers for you,” Bolton replied. “But I didn’t bring any more olives.”
The two also discussed cooperation in Syria and accusations that Russia was meddling in US elections. Bolton on Monday said that he had confronted Russia on its elections meddling, but also said that the interference had little effect on the outcome of the 2016 elections, a view that seemed tailored to Donald Trump.
“What the meddling did create was distrust and animosity within the United States,” Bolton said on Tuesday when asked about his remarks. “It made it almost impossible for the US and Russia to make progress diplomatically for two years. That’s a huge loss to both countries but mostly to Russia. It’s a message to Russia: don’t mess with American elections.”
A Kremlin aide, Yuri Ushakov, on Tuesday evening said that US accusations about elections interference were “mentioned but not discussed”, according to Interfax.
“In fact, both the president and Mr Bolton decided to abandon mutual accusations and hold this serious, normal substantive conversation, and they did,” he said, according to Interfax.