Trump Eyes Talks With Putin, Xi To Halt 'Uncontrollable Arms Race'
By RFE/RL December 03, 2018
U.S. President Donald Trump says he is certain that "at some time in the future" he, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Russian President Vladimir Putin "will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race."
Trump made the remark on Twitter on December 3 after holding talks with Xi and a brief discussion with Putin during a G20 summit in Buenos Aires late last week.
Trump added that the United States spent $716 billion this year, suggesting that was the amount it had spent on weapons or the military, and adding, "Crazy!"
The tweet came amid tension between Washington and Moscow over Trump's announcement in October that the United States will withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
The bilateral 1987 pact prohibits Russia and the United States from producing, possessing, and deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.
Trump said the United States would withdraw because of an alleged Russian violation and because of concerns that the treaty binds the United States to restrictions while leaving nuclear-armed countries that are not signatories, such as China, free to develop and deploy the missiles.
There is no sign that the United States has formally withdrawn from the pact as yet.
Speaking ahead of a NATO foreign-ministers meeting on December 4-5, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the current impasse over the INF treaty was "untenable" and demanded Russia come into compliance.
"This treaty eliminated an entire category of weapons, but it has been put in jeopardy by Russia," Stoltenberg said in Brussels. "Russia has developed, produced, and deployed a new missile. It is mobile and hard to detect. It is nuclear-capable. And it could reach European cities with little or no warning time."
"Russia must take immediate steps to ensure full compliance with the INF Treaty in a transparent and verifiable way.... We seek dialogue with Russia and we aspire to improved relations, but to make this possible Russia must fully comply with its international commitments," he said.
The United States accuses Russia of violating the INF with its Novator 9M729 cruise missile, also known as the SSC-8. Russia denies it is in violation and claims that the United States has breached the pact.
Stoltenberg rejected that claim, saying that the United States "is in full compliance with the INF Treaty. There are no new U.S. missiles in Europe. But there are new Russian missiles."
With tension between Moscow and Washington persistently high amid an array of disputes, there is also uncertainty over the fate of New START, a 2010 treaty that put new limits on the Russian and U.S. long-range nuclear arsenals. The pact expires in 2021 but can be extended for five years.
The NATO meeting also comes amid tension over Russia's seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels and 24 sailors near the Kerch Strait off the coast of Crimea on November 25.
Trump cited the fact that Russia was still holding the sailors -- who are charged with illegal border crossing and could be sentenced to six years in prison if tried and convicted -- when he canceled a scheduled December 1 meeting with Putin in Buenos Aires.
NATO ministers will discuss the issue, Stoltenberg said, adding that there was "no justification for this use of force" by Russia and calling for "calm and restraint."
"Russia must release the Ukrainian sailors and ships," he said. "It must also allow freedom of navigation and unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian vessels -- military as well as civilian -- have the right to navigate through the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov."
The United States and the European Union have also called on Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors and ensure normal passage through the Kerch Strait to the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has key ports.
The confrontation off Crimea has added to tension over Crimea, which Russia occupied and took over from Ukraine in March 2014, and a simmering war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
With reporting by Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels, dpa, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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