The US and Russia have walked away from a landmark arms deal designed to limit how much they can expand their nuclear arsenals.
President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty three decades ago, but the modern day White House and the Kremlin have shown no willingness to extend or replace it once it expires in 2021.
It means that there will be no legally binding restrictions on the two biggest collections of nuclear weaponry in the world for the first time in nearly half a century, prompting fears of a new global arms race.
The US has blamed Russia for the demise of the agreement, claiming that Moscow has been in violation of its terms for years in its development and fielding of certain weapons.
With the treaty set to be consigned to history, the Trump administration has indicated that it will now counter Russia – and the emerging power of China – by increasing its own arsenal.
Donald Trump has also not committed to extending or replacing the more recent New Start deal, which began imposing limits on the number of US and Russian long-range nuclear warheads and launchers last year.
The US president has described it as “just another bad deal” signed by predecessor Barack Obama, and has suggested he would prefer to strike an arms control agreement that also included China.
Speaking on Thursday, he said: “We’ll see what happens. I will say Russia would like to do something on a nuclear treaty and that’s kay with me. They’d like to do something and so would I.”
The Republican has made a habit of walking away from deals signed by previous US administrations since he took office back in 2017, most notably the Paris climate agreement.
While Mr Trump has appeared relaxed about the demise of the 1987 treaty signed by Mr Reagan and Mr Gorbachev, its collapse has been met with concern in Europe.
German foreign minister Heiko Maas said it meant the continent was less secure.
“We regret the fact that Russia has not done what was necessary to save the INF treaty,” he said.
“Now we call all the more on Russia and the US to preserve the New Start treaty as a cornerstone of worldwide arms control.
“Nuclear powers such as China must also face up to their responsibility on arms control – they have more weight in the world than at the time of the Cold War.”