The United States will soon announce plans to suspend compliance with a nuclear missile pact with Russia, responding to an alleged violation of the treaty by Moscow, Reuters reports, citing unidentified US officials.
The move would start a six-month countdown that could lead to permanent US withdrawal from the 1987 arms control accord, which bans either side from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe, the report said.
However, Washington could choose not to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), if Russia comes into compliance with the treaty within that time frame.
The US alleges that a new Russian cruise missile violates the pact. The missile, the Novator 9M729, is known as the SSC-8 by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Russia denies the allegation, saying the missile’s range puts it outside the treaty, and has accused the United States of inventing a false pretext to exit a treaty Washington wants to leave anyway so it can develop new missiles.
Russia has also rejected a US demand to destroy the new missile.
“We’re going to announce suspension,” a US official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
A second US official said the American action would be “reversible” if Russia comes back into compliance during the six-month US suspension.
The dispute is aggravating the worst US-Russia frictions since the Cold War ended in 1991. Some experts believe the treaty’s collapse could undermine other arms control agreements and speed an erosion of the global system designed to block the spread of nuclear arms.
US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson on Thursday held last-ditch talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Beijing ahead of the expiration on Saturday of a US 60-day deadline for Moscow to return to compliance with the treaty.
Thompson and Ryabkov said afterwards that the two countries had failed to bridge their differences. They met on the sidelines of a meeting of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members – the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain – all nuclear powers.
European officials are concerned about the treaty’s possible collapse, fearful that Europe could again become an arena for nuclear-armed, intermediate-range missile buildups by the US and Russia.
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