US national security adviser John Bolton faces two days of high-tension talks in Moscow after President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty.
Mr Trump’s announcement that the United States would leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty brought sharp criticism on Sunday from Russian officials and from former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the treaty in 1987 with president Ronald Reagan.
Mr Trump said Russia has violated terms of the treaty that prohibit the US and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying ground-launched nuclear cruise missiles with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles.
Russia has repeatedly denied allegations that it has produced and tested such a missile.
Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as telling state news agency Tass that leaving the treaty “would be a very dangerous step”.
It would “cause the most serious condemnation from all members of the international community who are committed to security and stability”.
Konstatin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said on Facebook that a US withdrawal from the treaty would mean “mankind is facing full chaos in the nuclear weapons sphere”.
“Washington’s desire to turn back politics cannot be supported. Not only Russia, but also all who cherish the world, especially a world without nuclear weapons, must declare this,” Mr Gorbachev was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the UK stands “absolutely resolute” with Washington on the issue and called on the Kremlin to “get its house in order”, according to the Financial Times.
German foreign minister Heiko Maas said that Mr Trump’s announcement “raises difficult questions for us and Europe”, but noted that Russia has not cleared up allegations of violating the treaty.
The Kremlin has not directly commented on Mr Trump’s statement, but spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday that “after the last statements, explanations of the American side will be required”.
Mr Bolton and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet on Tuesday. On Monday, Mr Bolton meets with foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
US senator Bob Corker, a member of Mr Trump’s Republican Party, warned that the withdrawal from the INF could lead to undoing other arms treaties. But he suggested that Mr Trump’s statement could be aimed at pressuring Moscow rather than a firm determination to leave the treaty.
“Maybe this is just a move to say, look … if you don’t straighten up we’re moving out of this,” he said. “And I hope that’s the case.”