The 31st anniversary of a landmark nuclear arms treaty could be its last, analysts fear, as the U.S. and Russia look for ways to withdraw from it.
On Dec. 8, 1987 after about 10 years of negotiations then-Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, bringing to an end the threat of a nuclear war in Europe.
Under the treaty, both sides agreed to destroy intermediate- and short-range missiles in a span of four years.
Currently, Russia and the U.S. are engaged in a war of words -- each blaming the other of violating the treaty.
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday blamed the U.S. for allocating funds to create nuclear missiles even before officially ending the treaty.
Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said that Russia was "cheating", adding that Washington will soon activate a 6-month notice period to leave the pact, raising concerns of a global arms race.
Commenting on the situation, Vladimir Tulayev, a Russian ex-intelligence service officer, told Anadolu Agency that both countries have most likely violated the treaty and are now simply playing a blame game.
"Political will once made the treaty possible and there is no such will now," he added.
This is partly confirmed by Gorbachev who describes in his memoirs the 1986 Reykjavik meeting in Iceland as "a breakthrough" in negotiations on the INF Treaty.
“I received a message from President Reagan. I carefully read the text and came to the conclusion that it did not contain any resolutions. Of course, I could write a formal answer, but I do not like to chew the verbal gum. It was necessary to take a decisive step. So there was an idea of a meeting in Reykjavik. (...) Reykjavik became a genuine breakthrough in the areas of arms control. After it (the meeting in Reykjavik), the entire negotiation mechanism worked actively and effectively,” Gorbachev wrote.
Winds of change
But now global politics have taken a different turn.
Russia fears the NATO expansion eastward. Being alone against 29 nations, not counting allies, Moscow tries to use every means to secure its borders, he said.
"The U.S. has to deal with the old adversaries like Russia, recovering from the post-Perestroika shock and new ones like China on the Pacific direction, which has an outstanding advantage in soldiers in case of a land confrontation," he added.
In the long-term, the two Cold War rivals rely on their space arms program.
Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov said at a meeting on Wednesday that they are building a staged air-space protection, that will protect the country not only from air but also from space strikes.
Currently, Russia lags behind the U.S. in the space arms development. Despite being the trailblazer, Moscow's space program was frozen for many years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"It was retaken only a few years ago," Alexey Leonkov, editor-in-chief of Home Arsenal, a military magazine, told Anadolu Agency.
"It is not an accident that Russian Air Forces were renamed Air Space Forces, although this name became an object for many jokes," he said.
"The most information is classified, but it is known that the U.S. has developed a space-based laser capable to destroy missiles and strike land targets if the weather conditions are good and also drone-satellites that can shoot down missiles and attack other satellites," he added.
He went on to make a prediction. "The end of the INF Treaty is inevitable. I think we have to wait the official announcement in the first half of 2019."