The United States last Friday officially withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, an arms control pact that had rid the world of more than 2,600 U.S. and Russian nuclear and conventional ballistic missiles. The U.S. had long-standing complaints about Russian compliance with the agreement — charges that Russia both denied and threw back at Washington — and Moscow's refusal to take them seriously prompted the Trump administration to pull out of the treaty. China's exclusion from the agreement also weighed heavily on U.S. thinking. The world must now brace for deployments of new missiles in Europe and Asia, moves that will trigger tensions and impact security in both theaters.

The INF treaty was negotiated in the mid-1980s by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It banned all ground-based missile systems with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km. Because of Japanese fears that restricting the treaty's scope to Europe would result in the redeployment of those systems to Asia, a global ban resulted.

Several years ago, the U.S. complained to Russia that Moscow was violating the terms of the treaty by developing a new land-based, nuclear-capable cruise missile, the 9M729 missile. Russia first denied that the missile existed but then claimed that its range was too short to qualify for inclusion in the INF. Earlier this year, Washington warned that Russia had six months to return to compliance with the treaty — i.e., eliminate the new missile — or it would pull out.