WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is pulling the plug on a decades-old nuclear arms treaty with Russia, lifting what it sees as unreasonable constraints on competing with a resurgent Russia and a more assertive China. The move announced Friday sets the stage for delicate talks with U.S. allies over potential new American missile deployments.
In explaining his decision, which he had foreshadowed months ago, President Donald Trump accused Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with “impunity” by deploying banned missiles. Moscow denies it is in violation and has accused Washington of resisting its efforts to resolve the dispute.
Democrats in Congress and some arms control advocates criticized Trump’s decision as opening the door to an arms race.
“The U.S. threat to terminate the treaty will not bring Russia back into compliance and could unleash a dangerous and costly new missile competition between the United States and Russia in Europe and beyond,” the private Arms Control Association said. It argued that Washington had not exhausted options for drawing Russia back into compliance.
Trump said in a statement that the U.S. will “move forward” with developing its own military response options to Russia’s banned deployment of cruise missiles that could target western Europe.
“We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other,” Trump said. Other officials said the treaty could still be saved if Russia reverses course and returns to compliance, but that window of opportunity will close in six months when the American withdrawal is due to take effect.
The Trump decision reflects his administration’s view that the arms treaty was an unacceptable obstacle to more forcefully confronting not only Russia but also China. China’s military has grown mightily since the treaty was signed, and the pact has prevented the U.S. from deploying weapons to counter some of those being developed in Beijing.
Leaving the INF pact, however, risks aggravating relations with European allies, who share the administration’s view that Russia is violating the treaty but who have not endorsed a U.S. withdrawal.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking to reporters after Trump’s statement, said Russia will be formally notified today that the U.S. is withdrawing from the treaty, effective in six months. In the meantime, starting today, the U.S. will suspend its obligations under the treaty.
Pompeo said that if, in the coming six months, Russia accepts U.S. demands that it verifiably destroy the cruise missiles that Washington claims are a violation, then the treaty can be saved. If it does not, “the treaty terminates,” he said.
Administration officials have dismissed concerns that the treaty’s demise could trigger a race to develop and deploy more intermediate-range missiles. U.S. officials have emphasized their fear that China, which is not party to the treaty, is gaining a significant military advantage in Asia by deploying large numbers of missiles with ranges beyond the treaty’s limit. Whether the U.S. will now respond by deploying INF noncompliant missiles in Asia is unclear. In any case, it seems unlikely Beijing would agree to any negotiated limits on its weaponry.
Russia accused the U.S. of unilaterally seeking to neuter the treaty.
“I ‘congratulate’ the whole world; the United States has taken another step toward its destruction today,” said Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament.
INF was the first arms control measure to ban an entire class of weapons: ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 310 miles and 3,400 miles. At the time, in the late stages of the Cold War, the U.S. and its allies were mainly concerned by the perceived threat of Russian medium-range nuclear missiles that were targeted at Europe. The U.S. deployed similar missiles in response, in the 1980s, leading to negotiations that produced the INF treaty.
Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington state Democrat and new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, blasted Trump for raising the risk of nuclear war.
“The administration’s ideological aversion to arms control as a tool for advancing national security is endangering our safety, as well as that of our allies and partners,” Smith said.
U.S. officials say they have little reason to think Moscow will change its stance in the next six months.
“We have raised Russia’s noncompliance with Russian officials — including at the highest levels of government — more than 30 times,” Pompeo said. “We have provided Russia an ample window of time to mend its way. Tomorrow that time runs out.”
Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press that Russia can still save the treaty by returning to compliance before the U.S. withdrawal takes effect.
“But at the same time, we have started to assess the consequences, look into options,” Stoltenberg said. “We need to make sure that we respond as an alliance, all 29 allies, because all allies are involved and all allies are affected.”
TWIN FALLS — Despite what you might think, Twin Falls’ emergency room isn’t extra busy on Super Bowl Sunday.
Over the last couple of years, St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center hasn’t seen a spike in emergency department patient numbers the day of the big game.
“Really, at least locally, we don’t see a change in terms of patient visits,” emergency medicine physician Dr. Heather Ellsworth said Friday. And historically, she has seen the same types of medical issues as any other day of the year.
Ellsworth didn’t work on Super Bowl Sunday last year, but in other years, she has seen some patients delay coming to the emergency department because they were emotionally invested in watching the game and waited for it to end.
That fits with the findings of a 2009 article in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine. It concluded fewer male patients visit emergency departments during a seven-hour time period before, during or after major sporting events like the Super Bowl than non-game days.
“We recommend studying outcomes for those apparently delaying emergent care,” the study’s author notes.
Another issue related to the Super Bowl — often known as a day to overindulge on food — is whether chest pain is due to a cardiac issue or simply heartburn. Gallbladder issues and acid reflux, for example, can cause chest pain, Ellsworth said.
Even the use of antacids doesn’t necessarily help make that distinction, she said. The way to make a determination is through testing such as an EKG or blood test to check cardiac enzymes.
If you do one thing: Faulkner Planetarium will feature “The Longest Night: A Winter’s Tale” at 4:30 p.m. and “National Parks Adventure” at 8 p.m. among other shows at CSI’s Herrett Center for Arts and Science on North College Road in Twin Falls; $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 children.
TWIN FALLS — Twin Falls County commissioners are taking steps to address the immediate need for more inmate housing.
More than 30 inmates were displaced after a fire broke out Nov. 24, 2018, in an annex of the Twin Falls County Jail. The electrical fire was in one of three mobile jail pods the jail has to handle overflow for lower-risk inmates.
The three pods were installed in 1994. Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Doug Hughes told the Commission on Friday the upkeep of the units has been difficult, and all three are showing their age. Commissioners voted unanimously to pursue a request for proposals, contingent upon legal review, to replace all three annexes.
“They were like a five-year solution when they were put in,” Commissioner Jack Johnson told the Times-News. “They’ve way outlived their lifespan.”
The county is overdue for a larger jail, but commissioners estimate that will be at least four years out.
“The jail staff is constantly looking for out-of-county housing,” Johnson said.
The jail population has leveled off over the winter, he said, but it is expected to increase as the weather warms up. Earlier this week, there were 42 inmates being housed in other counties, but the average is about 50 per day, Johnson said. That includes a 25-bed contract with the Jerome County Jail. Inmates are also housed in Blaine County, Cassia County, Elmore County and as far away as Fremont, Lewis and Valley counties.
Two of the three mobile units can hold around 30 beds, and a third holds 16 beds. Commissioners intend to make them all double-wide units capable of holding 30 beds. Commissioner Don Hall had cautioned against increasing the jail’s footprint too much because it would require the county to secure a new special use permit through the city.
Twin Falls County Facilities Director Jeff Climer said the expected lifespan of the new pods would be around 30 years. But commissioners plan to solve the overcrowding problem long before then.
“This is not a long-term solution,” Hall said. “This is a temporary solution.”
Also on Friday, the commission unanimously approved a request to add a third civil attorney to the county prosecutor’s office. That will come at a cost of around $80,000 including salary and benefits, Hall said.
“The office is being overwhelmed with the two personnel in there — and these are two sharp attorneys,” he said.
The office is also experiencing some shuffling around as Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor Rosemary Emory was appointed to a vacant judgeship in the Fifth Judicial Court, County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said. With a new chief deputy and a new deputy civil prosecutor in the department, the office will feel the strain even more so than usual, he said.
“We just don’t have the manpower to address things in as timely manner as they probably should,” Loebs said.
And the office hasn’t been able to be forward-looking, out of concerns of falling behind, he said. The civil prosecutor’s office was expanded to two people about 21 years ago and briefly had a third position in the ‘90s before losing it due to budget cuts.
BOISE — A former Jerome County sheriff will spend three years on probation and must perform 100 hours of community service for misusing public money.
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced that Doug McFall, 61, was sentenced Friday by Fifth District Judge Ned Williamson
McFall pleaded guilty in November.
McFall was also ordered to pay a $1,500 fine, $393 in restitution and court costs.
The judge suspended a one to three year prison sentence, but if he fails on probation, McFall could end up serving the time. The judge also suspended a 60-day jail sentence.
An investigation revealed that while still serving as sheriff McFall used a county-owned $79 Costco Reward Certificate to assist in the personal purchase of a gun safe. McFall has said he didn’t realize at the time that the Costco rebate check belonged to the county and believed it was from his personal Costco card.
The case was investigated by the Attorney General’s Office. Deputy Attorney General David Morse of the OAG’s Special Prosecutions Unit prosecuted the case.
The Attorney General’s Office began investigating McFall around the same time that a former lieutenant with the sheriff’s office was accused of taking money meant for undercover drug buys. The former lieutenant, Dan Kennedy, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of misuse of public funds in September 2017. He served six months of unsupervised probation.