WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Monday he would build up America’s nuclear arsenal in response to what he portrayed as growing threats from Russia and China.
“Until people come to their senses, we will build it up,” Trump said in reference to U.S. nuclear weapons capacity. “We have more money than anybody else by far.”
Trump also reiterated his intention to withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, which he accused of violating the pact.
“I’m terminating the agreement,” Trump told reporters before leaving for a campaign rally in Texas. “Russia has not adhered to the agreement. This should have been done years ago.”
Trump first announced plans to withdraw from the three-decades-old accord, commonly referred to as the INF Treaty, during a campaign rally over the weekend. The agreement, signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, required the U.S. and Russia to destroy ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between approximately 310 and 3,400 miles, along with supporting equipment.
The White House says Russia is breaking the accord by producing or testing ground-launched nuclear cruise missiles with that range. Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Trump made the threat of a nuclear weapons build-up shortly after his national security adviser, John Bolton, landed in Moscow for a series of previously scheduled meetings.
White House officials said Bolton would focus on a broad range of issues, from arms control to the Syrian civil war. But Putin’s spokesman said they would use the meetings to demand answers from Bolton about the fate of the nuclear accord.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expects “a detailed explanation” of Trump’s threat to withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty, a Kremlin spokesman said Monday before Bolton’s meetings began.
“Putin has always said that scrapping this document would cause damage to global security and stability,” Dmitry Peskov, the Russian leader’s spokesman, said Monday, according to the state-controlled media outlet Tass. “We would like to receive a detailed explanation from the U.S.”
European leaders have not disputed U.S. allegations of Russian cheating. But they’ve expressed concerns that Trump’s plan to nix the treaty will lead to a new nuclear arms race.
The INF treaty “contributed to the end of the cold-war and constitutes a pillar of European security architecture since it entered into force 30 years ago,” the EU said in a statement Monday. It noted that the treaty led to the elimination of nearly 3,000 missiles with nuclear and conventional warheads have been removed and verifiably destroyed and urged the U.S. and Russia to resolve its differences over the accord.
“The world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability,” the EU statement says. .
Trump’s announcement also sparked concern among some members of Congress.
“They’re a nuclear power, and I think it’s foolish of us to get out of the INF treaty willy-nilly or flippantly,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told reporters during a conference call Monday. “We should be appointing arms negotiators to work out our differences.”
Senate Foreign Relations chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told CNN on Sunday that Trump’s decision could undermine other disarmament agreements. He said he hoped Trump would reconsider.
“Maybe this is just a move to say, ‘Look … if you don’t straighten up we’re moving out of this’,” Corker said. “… And I hope that’s the case.”
But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said it was “absolutely the right move” to nix the treaty. “The Russians have been cheating,” Graham said on Fox News.
@AmbJohnBolton began his visit to Moscow by meeting with Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. They discussed a wide range of topics including strategic arms control, Syria, Iran, North Korea and the fight against terrorism. https://t.co/KToxiqmLU7
— Andrea Kalan (@USEmbRuPress) October 22, 2018
Contributing: The Associated Press