US gives Russia 60 days to comply with nuclear treat
05 December 2018
The United States on Tuesday asked Russia to come clean on what Washington perceives as a violation of an arms control treaty that keeps missiles out of Europe and sought compliance by Moscow within 60 days.
The US ultimatum follows a meeting of NATO allies led by Germany, in Brussels, that pressed US secretary of state Mike Pompeo to give diplomacy a chance before Washington pulls out of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
NATO foreign ministers have, in turn, agreed to formally declare Russia in “material breach” of the INF treaty and support US moves.
Russia, however, denies any deployment of land-based, intermediate-range cruise missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads arrayed against European cities.
NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said if the diplomatic push to try to convince Russia to give up “multiple battalions of the SSC-8 missiles” fails, Washington is set to pull out in February.
Pompeo said the deployment of the missiles, called Novator 9M729, could lead to a new arms race in Europe.
“Its range makes it a direct menace to Europe,” Pompeo said, adding that Russia’s actions “greatly undermine America’s national security and that of our allies”.
Pompeo said the US government had raised the issue at least 30 times since 2013 with Moscow but had faced what he said were denials and counter-actions.
“In the light of these facts, the United States declares Russia in material breach of the treaty and will suspend our obligations ... effective in 60 days unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo has signalled deployments of new missiles in Europe to restore the military balance after the 60-day period but declined to give more details.
Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium are concerned about the deployment of US missiles in Europe, as happened in the 1980s.
The INF treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ratified by the US Senate, eliminated deployment of medium-range missiles in Europe and reduced chances of a nuclear strike at short notice.
US Cruise and Pershing missiles deployed in Britain and West Germany were removed as a result of the treaty, while the Soviet Union pulled back its SS-20s out of European range.