DEFENCE secretary Gavin Williamson's support for US President Donald Trump over his decision to pull out of the INF nuclear treaty with Vladimir Putin's Russia was "premature and irresponsible", the director of a UK-based arms control think-tank has said.
With the US midterm elections looming, Mr Trump confirmed his decision last week, citing violations by the Russians, whom he accused of testing and deploying prohibited intermediate-range cruise missiles.
The treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
But Paul Ingham, executive director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) fears Mr Turmp's decision risks triggering a renewed nuclear arms race.
He said: "Gavin Williamson’s stance the UK stands ‘absolutely resolute’ with President Trump is premature and irresponsible.
"NATO has consistently urged both parties to uphold the Treaty and since President Trump’s decision the EU, Germany and France have all urged President Trump to reconsider.
Mr Ingham claimed Mr Trump's decision showed a "reckless disregard" for arms control and multilateralism.
He added: "His move risks deepening a nuclear arms race between the world’s two nuclear superpowers."
With the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, commonly known as New Start, due to expire in 2021, Mr Ingham warned the world be left without any mutually agreed limits on the US and Russian nuclear arsenals since 1972.
He said: "Rather than recklessly withdrawing, the United States should exhaust all diplomatic measures to uphold the Treaty.
"If the INF Treaty falls, Europe would be at unique risks, sandwiched between a new nuclear arms race."