Bolton to Russia: 'Don't mess with American elections'

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton says Russian meddling in U.S. elections had backfired on Moscow, providing a lesson to the Kremlin: "Don't mess with American elections."

Speaking during a visit to Moscow, Bolton said there was no evidence that the meddling — which Russia has denied — materially affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, but that it did create mistrust toward Russia.

U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia carried out a campaign of hacking and propaganda targeting the 2016 poll in an attempt to sow discord, discredit Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and boost support for Republican Donald Trump.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Congress are investigating the interference and any possible collusion by Trump's campaign. Trump has repeatedly denied collusion.

Quitting nuclear pact

Washington is also pressing ahead with its plan to quit a nuclear arms control pact, Bolton said on Tuesday, signalling that a meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin had not deflected the White House from its plan.

Bolton had a 90-minute meeting in the Kremlin with Putin, at which the Russian leader had taken the White House to task over what he said were a series of unprovoked steps against Moscow.

Bolton says the U.S. is going ahead with its plan to pull out of the nuclear arms pact, calling it outdated. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Russia has said that if Trump makes good on his threat to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF), Moscow will be forced to respond in kind to restore the military balance.

But speaking at a news conference after his talks with Putin, Bolton gave no indication of any change of course on the INF treaty.

"There's a new strategic reality out there," Bolton said, saying that a Cold War-era treaty no longer met the demands of the world as it is now.

"In terms of filing the formal notice of withdrawal, that has not been filed but it will be filed in due course."

Signed by then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan and reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, the INF treaty required the elimination of all short- and intermediate-range land-based nuclear and conventional missiles held by both countries in Europe.

Its demise could raise the prospect of a new arms race and of Europe once again hosting U.S. land-based ballistic and cruise missiles.

Gorbachev, now 87, has warned that unravelling it could have catastrophic consequences. Countries such as Poland have, however, backed Trump's move.

Bolton has said he thinks the treaty is outdated because it does not cover countries such as China, Iran and North Korea, which he says remain free to make intermediate-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

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