BARTLESVILLE — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said he supports President Donald Trump’s policies towards the suspension of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia and the political instability in Venezuela, saying both are dangerous situations for the United States.
Inhofe, who chairs the powerful Senate Armed Forces Committee, was in Bartlesville Friday for a meeting with constituents at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Friday the U.S. will suspend participation in the INF Treaty — an agreement signed with Russia in 1987 that helped slow the arms race. In his announcement, Pompeo said Russia had violated the treaty for years. Inhofe said he agrees with Pompeo.
The INF Treaty prohibits the production or testing of ground-launched nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges between 300 to 3,400 miles.
Inhofe said the suspension of the treaty is something that is needed because the United States has complied but Russia has not. It also has impact on China, which is not part of the INF Treaty, Inhofe said.
“The Russians have continuously broken that, and the treaty is just between the United States and Russia. It does not include China,” Inhofe said. “China is the biggest threat we have and they aren’t even a part of it. As far as Russia is concerned, they don’t comply with it anyway. So several of us in Washington have asked, ‘Why in the world are we in it?’
“I think we are going to be in good shape with getting out of the treaty. We get out and we will not have to comply with something that we have been compliant with, but the only other party has not been in compliance.”
Following the Trump administration’s announcement Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended his country's participation in the INF Treaty on Saturday as well. Putin maintains that Moscow has not violated the treaty, but will start developing new missiles in the wake of the INF’s suspension.
Political instability in Venezuela is also a threat to the United States, Inhofe said, after the Trump administration announced sweeping sanctions last week trying to weaken President Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorial grip on the oil-rich country. The United States announced the sanctions, claiming Maduro’s second term as president is illegitimate because of a fraudulent presidential race — and recognizing opposition party leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s president.
The Kremlin supports Maduro, releasing a statement stating it will do “everything required” to support Maduro as Venezuela’s “legitimate president.”
Inhofe said the United States must be ready if military intervention in Venezuela becomes necessary.
“If they decide to let the Russians have an airbase in our hemisphere, that’s a direct threat to Bartlesville, Oklahoma,” Inhofe said. “We’ve got to recognize that, and if it takes military to do that — we are ready and getting ready to do that if necessary.”
Inhofe said negative media coverage on Trump’s presidency has unfairly overshadowed the good things that are happening in the country. However, Inhofe said Trump made a mistake when he did not clarify what he meant when the president said all U.S. troops will withdraw from Syria.
“When he said we are going to pull all of our troops out of Syria, what the president said, but [the media] didn’t report was that it is still conditioned based,” Inhofe said. “So, if things are bad at that time, this is not going to happen. It is not going to happen in the timely manner that [Trump] thought it would. You can’t pull out and just leave the Kurds out there by themselves and expect nothing to happen.”
Inhofe said there will be an amendment the U.S. Senate will vote on this week to clarify that position, but it is not a “slam on the president,” as Inhofe claims many in the media will portray it as.
“I’ve never seen a president [where] so many of the media hates,” Inhofe said. “They don’t dislike him, they hate him. The things the media says is highly misrepresentative of what the president means.”
Inhofe defended Trump with claims that the economy is “arguably the best” in Inhofe’s lifetime.
“It is due to two things that he did — the reduction of regulations and [tax] rates — and that is accountable for the successes that he’s had,” Inhofe said. “Secondly, he’s rebuilding the military that was torn down in a way that is probably worse than you could imagine. The third thing is the judges [Trump has put on the federal benches].”