«While the treaty was seen as effective for years, Russia has been violating it at least since 2014 in an effort to menace other nations.
But the pact has also constrained the United States from deploying new weapons to respond to China’s efforts to cement a dominant position in the Western Pacific and to keep American naval forces at bay. Because China was not a signatory to the treaty, it has faced no limits on developing intermediate-range nuclear missiles, which can travel thousands of miles.
The White House said that no official decision had been made to leave the treaty, known as I.N.F., which at the time of its signing was considered a critical step in defusing Cold War tensions. But in the coming weeks, Mr. Trump is expected to sign off on the decision, which would mark the first time he has scrapped an arms control treaty, the American officials said.
Now that the treaty is largely in tatters, the question is whether the decision to leave it will accelerate the increasingly Cold War-like behavior among the three superpowers: the United States, Russia and China.
For the past four years, the United States has argued that Russia is in violation of the treaty because it has deployed prohibited tactical nuclear weapons to intimidate European nations and former Soviet states that have aligned with the West. But President Barack Obama chose not to leave the agreement because of objections from the Europeans — particularly Germany — and out of concern that it would rekindle an arms race.
Mr. Trump appears not to share such hesitation.
For cash-constrained Russia, tactical nuclear weapons, along with cyberweapons, are cheap offensive options. Just last week, Mr. Putin, in an annual speech, reported that Russia was preparing to deploy a new hypersonic missile, reinforcing the sense that the long hiatus in the nuclear arms race is over. Such missiles step around current arms control limits.
Jon Wolfsthal, a nuclear expert on the National Security Council during the Obama administration, said a withdrawal would roil Europe.
“Things are just now calming down,” he said. “This would be another hand grenade in the middle of NATO to split the allies.”
The Obama administration was the first to charge publicly that Moscow was violating the treaty. The offending weapon was identified as a land-based cruise missile, the SSC-8. Russia has consistently denied any violation.»