First, Russia is in violation of the treaty. It has been since at least 2014, when the Obama administration originally brought the violation to light. And last year the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified that the Russians had deployed prohibited missiles at the Kapustin Yar test site and another location in Russia.
Second, the White House’s decision will not come as a surprise to American allies. The Department of Defense has warned for months that the U.S. would deploy sea-based nuclear missiles unless Russia returned to INF compliance. Russia’s violations were also a topic at meetings of the nato Nuclear Planning Group earlier in October. On Sunday, Britain’s defense minister said he supported U.S. withdrawal. And on Monday, nato’s spokesman affirmed that all 29 allies believe Russia is in violation of the treaty. While allies would certainly prefer that the U.S. remain in the treaty, Trump’s decision may not prove as fractious as imagined.
Third, there is a strong operational argument for deploying now-prohibited ground-based conventional missiles in Asia. Commanders of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command have for some time drawn attention to the Chinese missile advantage.
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