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US set to suspend compliance with the INF Treaty today

In a move that will still make nuclear war in Europe more likely, the US is today expected to suspend its compliance with the INF Treaty (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed by the US and then USSR in 1987) -- rather than withdraw from it as originally announced. However, the US may also give notice of its intent to withdraw.

According to Beatrice Fihn, head of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning ICAN, "Suspension from a bilateral treaty is different from withdrawal from it as suspension means that the treaty continues to exist. It appears that the United States will suspend its compliance with the treaty on Friday on the basis that the Russian Novator 9M729 missile is within the prohibited missile range (more than 500 km). By suspending its compliance with the Treaty based on a material breach by Russia, it means the United States will be able to deploy prohibited missiles in Europe. Russia will still be bound by the treaty, but could of course respond by saying that they are in compliance so US suspension is itself unlawful, or themselves suspend or withdraw from treaty as a reaction to the US actions.

"Withdrawal means a state intends no longer to be a party to a treaty. In the case of the INF treaty there is a six-month notice period. This is to allow time for discussions or negotiations in case it is possible to resolve the problem. If there is no amicable resolution and the United States does give formal notice of withdrawal, it will no longer be a party to the INF Treaty. Similarly, Russia will, in all likelihood, no longer be bound either."

Further reading: Why the INF treaty matters -- and -- Why we all need the INF Treaty.

Photo: Soviet inspectors and their American escorts stand among several dismantled Pershing II missiles as they view the destruction of other missile components. The missiles are being destroyed in accordance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. 14 January 1989. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / US Department of Defense / MSGT Jose Lopez Jr.