Legality of Suspension of the Intermediate – Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by the USA and Russia

Dr. Abdelnaser Aljahani
Assist. Prof. of Public International Law
College of Law – University of Sultan Qaboos – Muscat – Oman


In a written statement, Donald Trump announced on 2 February 2019 that the US would be suspending its compliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between US and Russia (hereinafter, the INF), and would serve formal notice that it would withdraw altogether in six months. One month later, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, declared on 4 March 2019 that Russia had suspended its participation in the INF.
A number of experts expect that this may incite a new arms race — not only involving the US and Russia, but also China, which was never a signatory to the INF.
This paper aims to evaluate the legality of the suspension by the USA and Russia, and other relevant procedures such as withdrawal. To that end, the paper will examine this procedure in the light of the INF per se, as well as the rules of suspension set forth in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969 (VCLT). In addition, the case law and opinions of international law scholars in the field of suspension of treaties will be considered.
The paper argues that the legality of suspending the INF by the USA and Russia cannot be determined without evidence and facts regarding the grounds invoked by both of states. The paper concludes that one of the peaceful means to solve conflicts between States set forth in Article 33 of the United Nations Charter (UN), such as arbitration, mediation or judicial settlement, might determine the legality of this suspension.

Keywords: Suspension, obligations, breach, grounds, substantive, procedural.

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