BRUSSELS — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Tuesday that the Trump administration would begin the formal process to scrap the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty within 60 days unless Russia returns to compliance with the treaty’s terms.
“The burden falls on Russia to make the necessary changes,” Mr. Pompeo said. “Only they can save this treaty.”
If Russia does not come back into compliance by the deadline, the administration will begin a formal, six-month process to end the treaty, Mr. Pompeo said. During those months, the United States will still not test or deploy missiles that would abrogate the treaty, he said.
The announcement came at the end of a day of meetings that Mr. Pompeo held at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
The Trump administration said in October that it planned to withdraw from the treaty, alarming many of its closest European allies. Some complained that the Americans should have done a far better job consulting with them before making such a decision.
While the Trump administration pointed to years of treaty violations by Russia, there is another reason it wants to scrap the deal: The pact constrains the United States from deploying new weapons to respond to China’s growing militarization of the South China Sea.
Because China is not a signatory to the treaty, it faces no limits on developing intermediate-range nuclear missiles, which can travel thousands of miles.
Elbridge Colby, director of the defense program at the Center for a New American Security, said it was a challenge to balance Europe’s concerns about pulling out of the treaty with the need to respond to the growing threat from China.
“It’s a hard sell for the Europeans because they see scrapping the treaty as pushing them into a further arms race with Russia without improving their security,” Mr. Colby said. “On the other hand, China is by far the most significant military threat to the U.S. and our allies and we need to adjust to that.”
At a news conference after the NATO meeting, the organization’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said that the pact, which is known as the I.N.F. Treaty, had been “a pillar of Euro-Atlantic security for more than 30 years,” and that it had “made us all safer.”
But Mr. Stoltenberg agreed that the Russians had violated the agreement.
“This is part of Russia’s broader pattern of behavior — intended to weaken the overall Euro-Atlantic security architecture, Mr. Stoltenberg said. “There is no question that the United States fully complies with the treaty. There are no new U.S. missiles in Europe. But there are new Russian missiles in Europe.”
Mr. Stoltenberg urged Russia to return to compliance.
“We seek dialogue, not confrontation, with Russia,” he said.