Russia, US fail to save missile treaty

January 17, 2019 09:10
European powers are bracing for the collapse of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty between Washington and Moscow. Photo: Reuters

The United States on Wednesday rejected a Russian offer to save a landmark treaty that keeps nuclear missiles out of Europe, setting the stage for Washington to withdraw from the pact next month, Reuters reports.

After a meeting in Geneva between Russian and American officials, US Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson accused Moscow of refusing to allow proper inspection of a new Russian missile system that Washington says breaks the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), the report said.

“We weren’t able to break any new ground yesterday with Russia,” Thompson said of the Jan. 15 meeting with Russian Foreign Ministry officials.

“Based on yesterday’s discussions and corresponding rhetoric today, we see no indication that Russia would choose compliance,” Thompson was quoted as telling reporters.

The INF treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ratified by the US Senate, eliminated the medium-range missile arsenals of the world’s two biggest nuclear powers and reduced their ability to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.

The treaty bans land-based missiles with a range between 500 kms and 5,500 kms.

The US and its NATO allies want Russia to destroy its 9M729 nuclear-capable cruise missile system, which Washington says could allow Russia to strike Europe at short notice, and comply with the INF.

Without a deal, a US withdrawal over six months will start from Feb. 2.

“Russia must come back into compliance,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters after a meeting at NATO in which Thompson briefed allies.

But he said the alliance now needs to be prepared for the collapse of the INF treaty and that he had asked military authorities to look into the consequences.

European allies are worried about the deployment of US missiles in Europe, as happened in the 1980s, while being caught up in nuclear competition between Moscow and Washington.

“This is part of a pattern where Russia is investing in, modernizing, exercising and testing nuclear weapons,” Stoltenberg told Reuters.

"I think the whole idea is for Russia to try to be able to reestablish a sphere of influence where they can try to intimidate and control some of their neighbors.”

Russia denies any such strategy and accuses US President Donald Trump of using Moscow as a pretext to quit the INF.

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