The Korea Herald


US to suspend key Cold War-era security treaty obligations in December following Russia's pullout

By Yonhap

Published : Nov. 8, 2023 - 09:18

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National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is seen speaking during a press briefing at the White House in Washington on Sept. 5. (Yonhap) National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is seen speaking during a press briefing at the White House in Washington on Sept. 5. (Yonhap)

The United States will suspend the operation of its obligations under a late Cold War-era security treaty next month following Russia's withdrawal, a senior White House official said Tuesday.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan made the announcement as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization decided to suspend its obligations of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe aimed at limiting key categories of conventional military equipment in Europe.

The suspension came as prospects for international security cooperation remain bleak amid Russia's protracted war in Ukraine and the escalating war between Israel and the Hamas militant group, not to mention the intensifying Sino-US rivalry.

"The combination of Russia's withdrawal from the CFE Treaty and its continuing full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine -- another CFE State Party -- has fundamentally altered circumstances that were essential to the CFE States Parties' consent to be bound by the treaty, and radically transformed the obligations under the treaty," Sullivan said in a statement.

"In light of this fundamental change of circumstances, the United States will suspend the operation of all CFE Treaty obligations between itself and every other State Party, effective Dec. 7, consistent with our rights under international law," he added.

In November 1990, NATO member states and those of the rival Warsaw Pact signed the CFE treaty to keep their conventional arms at a lower level and prevent the massing of forces near their shared borders in an effort to promote European security.

Sullivan stressed that Russia's pullout from the CFE treaty demonstrated its continued disregard for arms control.

"The United States, our NATO Allies, and our responsible partners remain committed to effective conventional arms control as a critical element of Euro-Atlantic security," he said. "We will continue to pursue measures that aim to bolster stability and security in Europe by reducing risk, preventing misperceptions, avoiding conflicts, and building trust."

In a separate statement, NATO said that its member states intend to suspend the treaty obligations for "as long as necessary" -- a decision that it said was fully supported by all NATO members.

"While recognizing the role of the CFE as a cornerstone of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture, a situation whereby Allied States Parties abide by the Treaty, while Russia does not, would be unsustainable," the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's key decision-making body, said in a statement.

The suspension of the treaty is the latest in a series of security pacts that were left null and void at the risk of international security cooperation.

In 2019, the then Donald Trump administration withdrew the US from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying that Russia had failed to comply with INF obligations.

In February this year, Russia announced its decision to suspend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, an arms control pact with the US.

Just this month, Russia revoked its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear nuclear explosions for both military and civilian purposes.

Some observers noted that the scrapping of such Euro-Atlantic security pacts come amid a sense that they continue to get in the way of America's security buildup in the Indo-Pacific where China is not bound by them.

The US has characterized China as posing the "pacing" security challenge as Beijing is doubling down on its nuclear buildup.

In its latest Report on the Military and Security Developments involving the People's Republic of China, the Pentagon said that China is estimated to have more than 500 operational nuclear warheads as of May, and the figure may swell to over 1,000 by 2030. (Yonhap)