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United States Initiates Withdrawal from Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

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On February 2, 2019, the United States formally notified Russia that it would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in six months and that, effective immediately, it was suspending its performance under the treaty in light of Russia's material breach. This decision came more than three months after the Trump administration indicated that the United States was planning to withdraw from the treaty.

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References

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1 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, U.S. Intent to Withdraw from the INF Treaty (Feb. 2, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2019/02/288722.htm [https://perma.cc/6AHW-3FNZ] [hereinafter State Dep't INF Withdrawal Press Release].

2 For discussion of these earlier events, as well as background on the INF treaty and the underlying disputes between the United States and Russia regarding it, see Jean Galbraith, Contemporary Practice of the United States, 113 AJIL 132, 139–41 (2019) (also describing the broader trend of withdrawal from international agreements by the Trump administration and discussing the constitutional distribution of powers between the political branches with respect to withdrawal from treaties).

3 White House Press Release, Statement from the President Regarding the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (Feb. 1, 2019), at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-regarding-intermediate-range-nuclear-forces-inf-treaty [https://perma.cc/2G4B-Y9JD] [hereinafter White House Press Release].

4 State Dep't INF Withdrawal Press Release, supra note 1 (specifically referencing Russia's “noncompliant missile system—the SSC-8 or 9M729”); cf. Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Art. 60(1), 1155 UNTS 331, 8 ILM 679 (1969) (providing that “[a] material breach of a bilateral treaty by one of the parties entitles the other to invoke the breach as a ground for terminating the treaty or suspending its operation in whole or in part”); id. Art. 60(2)(b)–(c) (providing with respect to multilateral treaties that a party who is “specially affected by the [material] breach” may suspend its own performance “in the relations between itself and the defaulting State” and further that any party “other than the defaulting State” may suspend its performance if the material breach “radically changes the position of every party with respect to the further performance of its obligations under the treaty”). On December 4, 2018, Secretary of State Pompeo had declared that Russia was in material breach of the INF Treaty and warned that the United States would suspend its treaty obligations in sixty days unless Russia complied with its obligations under the Treaty. U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Press Availability at NATO Headquarters (Dec. 4, 2018), at https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2018/12/287873.htm [https://perma.cc/KU5F-P4F9].

5 State Dep't INF Withdrawal Press Release, supra note 1. The termination clause in the INF treaty provides in part that “[e]ach Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. It shall give notice of its decision to withdraw to the other Party six months prior to withdrawal from this Treaty.” 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, Art. XV(2), U.S.-USSR, Dec. 8, 1987, 1657 UNTS 2 [hereinafter INF Treaty]. Because the treaty was made between the United States and the Soviet Union, not only Russia but also the other successor states to the Soviet Union are parties to the originally bilateral INF treaty.

6 Russian Foreign Ministry Press Release, Foreign Ministry Statement (Feb. 2, 2019), at http://www.mid.ru/en/web/guest/maps/us/-/asset_publisher/unVXBbj4Z6e8/content/id/3495846 [https://perma.cc/YCX6-LC9C].

7 Kremlin Press Release, Meeting with Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu (Feb. 2, 2019), at http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/59763 [https://perma.cc/GC5W-RDHQ].

8 Id.

9 Anne Gearan, Paul Sonne & Carol Morello, U.S. to Withdraw from Nuclear Arms Control Treaty with Russia, Raising Fears of a New Arms Race, Wash. Post (Feb. 1, 2019), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-to-withdraw-from-nuclear-arms-control-treaty-with-russia-says-russian-violations-render-the-cold-war-agreement-moot/2019/02/01/84dc0db6-261f-11e9-ad53-824486280311_story.html?utm_term=.51d77709feaa (quoting this statement). By its terms, the New START Treaty expires ten years after entry into force. Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, U.S.-Russ., Art. XIV(2), Apr. 8, 2010, TIAS No. 11-205. The Treaty entered into force when the instruments of ratification were exchanged between the United States and Russia, which took place on February 5, 2011. Id. Art. XIV(1); U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Annual Report on Implementation of the New Start Treaty (Jan. 2018), at https://www.state.gov/t/avc/rls/rpt/2018/280538.htm [https://perma.cc/4FHR-LKTZ]. The Treaty will therefore expire on February 5, 2021, unless it is renewed.

10 David E. Sanger & William J. Broad, U.S. Suspends Nuclear Arms Control Treaty with Russia, N.Y. Times (Feb. 1, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/us/politics/trump-inf-nuclear-treaty.html.

11 Id.

12 Chinese Foreign Ministry Press Release, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Remarks on the US Suspending INF Treaty Obligations and Beginning Withdrawl [sic] Process (Feb. 2, 2019), at https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/t1635268.shtml [https://perma.cc/AX49-8KBF].

13 See Galbraith, supra note 2, at 140.

14 NATO Press Release, Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Following the Meetings of NATO Defence Ministers (Feb. 13, 2019), at https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_163394.htm [https://perma.cc/Y5DF-NX7M].

15 Office of the German Federal Chancellor Press Release, The Chancellor at the 55th Munich Security Conference (Feb. 16, 2019), at https://www.bundeskanzlerin.de/bkin-en/news/-all-of-us-together-will-be-needed-says-chancellor-1581236 [https://perma.cc/3TGA-ZCM4].

16 Id.

17 Id.

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