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Too soon to think about INF withdrawal ripple effects on Canada: Defence Minister


The United States will no longer abide by its nuclear arms agreement with Russia and will be removing itself from the treaty in six months if Russia doesn’t come back into its compliance, but Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said it’s too early to think about what the ripple effects could be for Canada.

In a written statement, U.S. President Donald Trump said his country will be removing itself from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Russia and the United States agreed to the treaty in 1987. It eliminated all nuclear and conventional missiles and launchers that had ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometres.

Trump said the U.S. will no longer abide by the treaty as of Saturday and will formally withdrawal in six months.

“The United States has complied with the INF Treaty for more than 30 years, but we will not be held back while Russia cheats,” says the White House statement, which repeatedly blames Russia for not conforming to the requirements of the arms treaty.

“We agree with our allies’ assessment that Russia has been in a breach of the INF Treaty,” Sajjan said.

Sajjan said that he and new acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan didn’t discuss the INF “directly” today in Washington, where Sajjan had his first meeting with Shanahan since he’s been acting as the U.S. defence chief.

Shanahan was previously the deputy secretary of defence but was appointed to the more senior role in an acting capacity after Jim Mattis resigned following U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of his intention to remove American troops from Syria.

“For non-proliferation and (nuclear) disarmament to occur, everyone needs to make sure they’re in compliance with the treaty,” Sajjan said.

According to the statement from the White House, only Russia’s destruction of its INF-violating missiles and launches will keep the U.S. in compliance and stop them from withdrawing completely in August.

The defence minister acknowledged that a treaty-free Russia could cause uneasiness for Canadian and U.S. allies in Europe, but that it’s too early to say what the impacts could be domestically.

“It’s important for us to send a unified message to Russia to come back to the rules based order so that we can maintain the stability that we have known for some time,” Sajjan said.

“This decision solely rests on the actions of Russia. There is opportunity still for Russia to come and be verifiably compliant and … we can always hope that they can come into compliance,” said the defence minister.

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