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Russia vows to raise US withdrawal from INF treaty at UNSC

The UN Security Council in session (file photo by AFP)

Russian and American officials have faced off at the UN General Assembly, with Moscow warning that it would raise the issue of the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF) at the UN Security Council if Washington makes good on its threat.

"In a year, if the US withdraws from the treaty and begins an uncontrolled build-up of weapons, nuclear-capable weapons, we will be confronting a completely different reality," Andrei Belousov, deputy director of Russia's Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, told the 193-member General Assembly's disarmament committee on Friday.

US President Donald Trump said on October 20 that Washington would quit the INF treaty, which was signed towards the end of the Cold War in 1987 by then President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The treaty, seen as a milestone in ending the Cold War arms race between the two superpowers, banned ground-launch nuclear missiles with ranges from 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers and led to the elimination of nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles.

The US said it is withdrawing from the pact because of Russia's alleged violation, an accusation Moscow denies. Russia said it was Washington that violated the agreement.

Moscow proposed a draft resolution at the UN General Assembly’s disarmament committee on Thursday aimed at preserving and strengthening the INF treaty after Trump’s decision to quit it.

Russia, which presented the draft after the October 18 deadline for submitting the resolutions, called for a vote on whether the committee should be allowed to consider the draft, but gained only 31 favorable votes at the General Assembly's disarmament committee, while 55 voted against and 54 abstained.

Belousov wondered whether the US was preparing for a war, asking, "Why is it then ... do they want to leave the treaty? Why do they want to build up their nuclear capability?"

He warned that if Washington quit, Russia could raise the issue at the 15-member Security Council.

US Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood told the committee Washington had spent some five years trying to engage Moscow on the issue of compliance and that Russia had "denied having produced or tested a ground-launch cruise missile."

"It's only recently that they admitted to having produced a ground-launch cruise missile but then maintained that it did not violate the range limits of the treaty," he added.

"The US has been extremely patient with Russia and our hope is that Russia will do the right thing and destroy that ground-launch cruise missile," Wood said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday warned that Moscow will respond in kind very quickly and effectively if the United States decides to quit the landmark nuclear arms control pact.

Experts warn that leaving the agreement could provoke a dangerous arms race across Europe, akin to the one that was unfolding during 1980, but was ended by the INF.

Trump’s decision has also drawn criticism from China and US allies, who warned against the security risks the collapse of the INF could pose to Europe.

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