Nuclear Treaty: Us Withdrawal

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:37 am on 25th October 2018.

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Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State 10:37 am, 25th October 2018

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman will have to put up with the Minister of State this morning.

If I may, I will first set out some of the context. The intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty is an agreement signed 31 years ago, in 1987, between the United States and the Soviet Union. The treaty eliminated nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with intermediate ranges. For over three decades, the INF treaty has played a valuable role in supporting Euro-Atlantic security. By removing an entire class of US and Russian weapons, the treaty has contributed to strategic stability and reduced the risk of miscalculation leading to conflict.

Russia’s aggressive actions, including the threat and use of force to attain political goals, continue to undermine Euro-Atlantic security and the rules-based international order. Full compliance is essential for the treaty to be effective, yet a pattern of behaviour and information over many years has led to widespread doubts about Russia’s compliance. Of course, it was the Obama Administration in 2014 that first strongly called out Russia’s non-compliance with this treaty. It is important to remember that this has been a long-running concern for several US Administrations and, indeed, for their European allies.

Alongside NATO allies in July, we made clear that in the absence of any credible answer from Russia on the 9M729 missile, the most plausible assessment would be that Russia was now in violation of the INF treaty. Since then, we have received no credible answer and so judge that Russia is indeed in violation.

In the interests of preserving the treaty, to which we in the UK and I think all our allies in Europe remain fully committed, we urge Russia to address these concerns in a substantial and transparent way, and to come back into full compliance with the treaty. The situation in which only one side—the United States—adheres to the treaty and Russia remains in non-compliance is not sustainable, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman would agree.

It is important to recognise that the US has not yet withdrawn from this treaty. While the treaty remains in force, we shall continue to support it, and in particular to press Russia to return to full and verifiable compliance. Indeed, it is worth noting media reports that Presidents Trump and Putin plan to meet in France next month—on Remembrance Sunday—to discuss this further. May I reassure the hon. Gentleman, and indeed the House at large, that dialogue is ongoing and that we shall remain in close contact with our US and NATO allies?