President Donald Trump ordered his Cabinet to work on sanctions targeting Russian officials for what the US claims is a violation of a key arms control treaty. The action is perceived as a cheap political ritual in Moscow.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty bans the US and Russia from developing and deploying land-based missiles with ranges between 500 and 1,000km. Signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, it helped reverse the nuclearization of Europe and deflate Cold War tension. Washington and Moscow have since accused each other of violating the key arms control agreement, but neither went as far as withdrawing from it.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 in US has a section that requires the White House to prepare a list of senior Russian officials responsible for violating the INF, who could be slapped with personal sanctions for it. Those include property freezes, travel bans and whatever Trump deems appropriate.
A memorandum by Trump, which was published on Wednesday, instructs several Cabinet members, including the State Secretary, the Director of National Security and the Secretary of the Treasury, to carry out the work.
The development was dismissed in Moscow as largely insignificant. “I have three words to describe it: cheap political ritual,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov on Thursday.
The US falsely believes that “Russia may be pressured by sanctions into offering unilateral concessions and actions pleasing Washington,” he said. “Its obvious that this does not promote normal dialogue on strategic stability and on the contrary hurts it.”
The US accuses Russia of secretly developing two rockets with intermediary range, which can be fired by a standard launcher of the tactical missile system Iskander-M. Russia denies that the rockets range falls within the restrictions.
Moscow in turn accuses the US of having developed banned missiles under the guise of target projectiles for anti-missile systems. It also says the US adopted naval vertical launch systems, which can fire Tomahawk missiles, to land deployment as part of AEGIS Ashore program, effectively making the cruise missiles land-based.
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