What is the INF nuclear treaty? | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 22.10.2018
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What is the INF nuclear treaty?

As the US is poised to pull out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, DW takes a closer look at the nuclear arms control agreement and its significance.

What is it about?

The "Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the elimination of their Intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles," also known as "the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty," or "INF Treaty" sought to destroy both countries' ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles), their launchers and associated support structures and support equipment.

It led to the destruction of almost 2,700 missiles and their launchers by the June 1, 1991 deadline stipulated in the treaty.

The INF treaty was the first US-Soviet agreement aimed at reducing the superpowers' nuclear arsenal and allow on-site inspections to verify the destruction of the missiles. It remained in force after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

US soldiers prepare to remove Pershing-II missiles from a base in the German town of Mutlangen

US soldiers prepare to remove Pershing-II missiles from a base in the German town of Mutlangen

How did the treaty come about?

Official talks began in late 1981 between then-US President Ronald Reagan and then-Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev.

The talks and subsequent treaty were the result of Western concern over the Soviet Union's efforts to modernize its missile arsenal. In the mid 1970s, the Soviets had reached what's known as "strategic parity" with the US with its new SS-20 missiles, which were capable of reaching Western Europe, North Africa and the Middle East among others.

The INF treaty was signed on December 8, 1987 by Reagan and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Washington DC. It came into force on June 1, 1988.

Read more: NATO's Jens Stoltenberg: 'We don't want a new Cold War' with Russia

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev exchange ratified copies of the INF treaty

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev exchange ratified copies of the INF treaty

Why is the Trump administration threatening to pull out?

Russia has long been suspected of violating the treaty by the US and its NATO allies.

In 2014, then-US President Barack Obama formally accused Moscow of breaching the agreement by producing and testing a ground-launched cruise missile.

Last year, the Trump administration charged that Moscow was working actively on being able to deploy it.

Russia has consistently denied it was breaching the agreement, instead raising concerns over Washington's compliance with the treaty.

Read more: NATO joins Merkel and Trump to voice concern about Putin's 'invincible' weapons

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Trump wants to pull US out of nuclear arms treaty

US National Security Adviser John Bolton is known for his critical stance on arms control and has long called for a withdrawal from the INF treaty.

US President Donald Trump has said he intends to leave the agreement and would only reconsider his decision if Russia and China agreed to partake in talks on a new pact involving all three nations.

Observers in both the US and Russia have raised concerns about China's rising influence and military power, raising the possibility of a fresh agreement that would include Beijing.

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