U.S. Formally Withdraws from Nuclear Treaty

The United States formally submitted its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on Feb. 2, 2019 after announcing its intention to do so in late 2018.

The INF Treaty, which banned land-based ballistic and cruise missiles with a range between 310 and 3,410 miles, is set to expire in six months. The U.S. cited Russian violations of INF’s terms (which Russia has denied) as the reason for withdrawal.

According to The Associated Press, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that another Cold War-era nuclear agreement, the New Start treaty, may also be on its way out. The New Start treaty is currently slated to expire in 2021. Ryabkov claims that U.S. reluctance to begin negotiations for the treaty’s renewal hint that the nation may be considering withdrawing from this agreement, as well. However, U.S. Undersecretary of State Andrea Thompson denied this, maintaining that there is still plenty of time to renew the treaty before 2021.

In his State of the Union address, President Trump referred to the INF treaty by saying, "Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can't — in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far."

2019 State of the Union Address

President Donald Trump delivered the annual State of the Union address before Congress on Feb. 5, 2019. The speech came a week later than it was initially scheduled due to conflicts between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who disinvited the president from addressing Congress until the recent government shutdown ended.

The government was fully reopened on Jan. 25, 2019 and is set to be funded until Feb. 15, 2019, but if a further compromise is not reached by that date another shutdown may follow, The Associated Press reported.  

"The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda. It is the agenda of the American people," Trump stated early on in the speech — a nonpartisan claim that contrasted with some of the controversial topics he would later address, like immigration policy and the his plans for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump also spoke on infrastructure, trade, prescription drug costs and foreign policy. Additionally, he addressed the ongoing investigation into allegations against him of collusion with Russia.

"If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation," Trump said. "It just doesn't work that way!"

Reaction to the State of the Union was mixed. While some of his points were widely applauded — such as his acknowledgment of the new record number of Congresswomen — others were less-widely received. BBC News stated that Pelosi’s office tweeted comments in reaction to and criticism of the speech as it was delivered.

Trump’s address was followed by a Democratic Party response. This year's response was delivered by Stacey Abrams, a recent gubernatorial candidate from Georgia. She talked about gun control and global climate change, among other topics that were largely absent from the State of the Union, itself.

The full text of this year’s State of the Union Address can be found here.

Thai Princess Enters Race for PM

Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavadi of Thailand has announced her candidacy for Prime Minister. She is registered under the Thai Raksa Chart party, which stands in support of Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Ubolratana is known for her work fighting drug abuse and encouraging Thailand's tourism industry, The Associated Press noted.

Until this announcement, Thai royalty have maintained a distance from politics, and according to BBC News there is some doubt as to whether other candidates will be willing to oppose a member of the royal family.

Currently, Ubolratana is running against the current prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha. The election, which will be the country’s first since Prayuth came to power in a 2014 military coup, is set to occur on March 24, 2019.