Foreign Minister Didier Reynders warned on Friday against a new nuclear arms race if the United States pulls out of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia, as Washington has announced. “Naturally a new nuclear proliferation is our big concern,” Reynders said in Bucharest, Romania, where he attended a meeting of European Union Foreign Ministers.
U.S. President Donald Trump had announced in October last that he intended to withdraw from the treaty – which Washington and Moscow signed in 1987, and which abolishes the use of land-based missiles with ranges of 500 km to 5,500 km – because Russia was not respecting it.
The United States gave Russia a 60-day deadline, expiring on 2 February, to dismantle new missiles which, according to Washington, violated the treaty, and threatened to launch the withdrawal procedure.
According to information obtained by the German news agency DPA, the U.S. was to have announced its withdrawal from the INF on Friday and reportedly informed its NATO allies.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeio was scheduled to brief the press on Friday morning in Washington. There was no confirmation from the State Department that the issue would be addressed at the briefing, but officials intimated on Thursday that the U.S. was prepared to withdraw from the treaty.
“New nuclear proliferation would constitute a threat for the whole of Europe, not only the European Union,” Reynders said on Friday, adding that a multilateral framework was necessary to fight nuclear proliferation effectively.
The issue is to be discussed at NATO and during a visit to Washington on 21-22 February, the Belgian Foreign Minister promised, noting that the discussions also needed to be pursued with Russia. “It’s time for the European Union to play a leading role in the non-proliferation talks with Russia,” he stressed.