Congress can do little to halt the U.S. withdrawal from a nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, if President Donald Trump is determined to do so. But Democrats could have opportunities to shape and even block the administration’s plans to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Earlier this month, the White House announced it would leave the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in six months. The Kremlin quickly responded that it too would cease honoring its arms control commitments under the accord, though the United States and NATO have long accused Russia of already violating the treaty by deploying an intermediate-range, ground-launched cruise missile.
The INF accord prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges from 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,3417 miles). The thought behind the treaty was to limit the deployment of shorter-range nuclear weapons within or near Europe so that Russia and the United States would not be on a hair-trigger alert to use them within minutes if either thought the other was launching. The accord was a huge issue in Europe in the 1980s, with NATO allies in Europe pushing President Ronald Reagan to make the deal.
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