Clinton: Trump’s decision to suspend nuclear treaty with Russia ‘a gift to Putin’

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday night criticized President Trump’s decision to remove the United States from a key arms treaty with Russia, calling it “a gift to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin” to withdraw.

She also suggested that beginning with the Obama administration, “we should have done a better job” communicating that the Russians were cheating on the treaty.

The Trump administration pulled out “without really holding Putin accountable for his cheating on the treaty,” Clinton said at an event hosted by Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service. She called for more “public diplomacy” on the issue.

“The last thing the world needs right now is a nuclear arms race,” Clinton said.

{mosads}The U.S. has publicly accused Russia of violating the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty since at least 2014. Former President Reagan and former General Secretary of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev signed the treaty in 1987, prohibiting the production of nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

The Obama administration, during which Clinton led the State Department from 2009 to 2013, also publicly warned Russia about violating the treaty. The Russian government has consistently rejected the accusations. 

“We clearly have pictures and we clearly know a lot about their cheating, and we should have done a better job in making it abundantly clear not only to the American people, but the Russian people and Europeans and others who were on the front lines that the Russians were evading their responsibilities in the INF,” Clinton said Wednesday.

Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee for president, explained that she would have taken a more diplomatic approach to the situation, saying pulling out without negotiating some other form of agreement with Russia “increases the unpredictability” in the region.

“We should have also demanded immediate talks to lay on the table what we knew and to begin a process of trying to push them back,” Clinton said.

The Trump administration in December gave Russia a 60 day warning about withdrawing from the treaty, asking the country to come into compliance by destroying the missiles that violate the treaty. The 60 days were up at the beginning of February. The administration plans to continue diplomatic talks with Moscow about the treaty during the six-month withdrawal period.

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