“We’ve been speaking with Russia about the pact for nuclear,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Friday, adding that “China is very excited about it” too.
This is not the first time the US president has brought up the ambitious nuclear weapons reduction plan. He first referenced it in April, arguing that the ultimate goal is to “get rid” of as many nuclear weapons as possible.
In practice, however, the Trump administration has poured billions of dollars into modernizing the US nuclear arsenal and Pentagon doctrines on the use of atomic weapons, while scrapping the landmark 1987 INF arms control treaty that kept the peace in Europe for over 20 years.
The INF officially ceased to exist on Friday, six months after the Trump administration announced it would exit the treaty, claiming Russia had a missile system that was violating it. However, Moscow has insisted that its 9M729 cruise missile is INF-compliant and that US and NATO refused all opportunities to actually inspect the system.
The US has manufactured a false pretext to exit the treaty it wanted to leave anyway, so the Pentagon could develop new missiles, Russian officials said on Friday.
Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton didn’t hide his disdain for the INF treaty when he visited Moscow last October, dismissing it as a Cold War relic unsuited to the “new strategic reality” that included China.
Meanwhile, China has been locked in a bitter trade war with Washington, while the US is also sending ships into the waters claimed by Beijing and selling weapons to the disputed island of Taiwan. Chinese officials have not confirmed Trump’s claims about their supposed enthusiasm for a nuclear arms control pact.
Nor have Beijing and Moscow forgotten that Trump has precipitated the current standoff with Iran by tearing up the nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor in 2015.
Admittedly, Trump campaigned on opposing the Iran deal and driving a hard bargain with China, but he also called for better relations with Russia – something that has not happened, mostly because Democrats have accused him of “collusion” with the Kremlin during the 2016 election.
The two-year special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation recently wrapped up without coming up with any evidence for this conspiracy theory.
“We’re trying to have a good relationship,” with Russia, Trump said on Friday. “It’s very hard, in light of the phony witch hunt, which is now over.”
The damage has already been done, however, as neither Moscow nor Beijing seem convinced they can make any deals with Washington and expect the US to stick to its word, regardless of whether it’s Trump in the White House or someone else.