WASHINGTON: The US has formally withdrawn from a key nuclear treaty with Russia, which has raised fears of a new arms race.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was signed by US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.
It banned missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km (310-3,400 miles).
But earlier this year the US and Nato accused Russia of violating the pact by deploying a new type of cruise missile, which Moscow has denied.
US claims it has evidence that Russia deployed a number of 9M729 missiles – known to Nato as SSC-8. This accusation was then put to Washington’s Nato allies, which all backed the US claim.
“Russia is solely responsible for the treaty’s demise,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Friday.
“With the full support of our Nato allies, the United States has determined Russia to be in material breach of the treaty, and has subsequently suspended our obligations under the treaty,” he added.
Russia’s foreign ministry confirmed the INF treaty is “formally dead” in a statement carried by state-run Ria Novosti news agency.
Back in February, President Donald Trump set the 2 August deadline for the US to withdraw if Russia didn’t come into compliance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended his country’s own obligations to the treaty shortly afterwards.
“An invaluable brake on nuclear war” was being lost, warned UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
“This will likely heighten, not reduce, the threat posed by ballistic missiles,” he added, urging all parties to “seek agreement on a new common path for international arms control”.
Analysts fear that the collapse of the historic agreement could lead to a new arms race between the US, Russia and China.
“Now that the treaty is over, we will see the development and deployment of new weapons,” Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russian military analyst said. “Russia is already ready.”