Putin says Russia will be forced to respond if US exits arms treaty

The US said it would pull out of the 1987 INF Treaty unless Moscow withdraws a new cruise missile system. US allies in NATO said they "strongly support the finding of the United States that Russia is in material breach of its obligations"
Thursday, 06 December 2018 08:02

The United States warned Russia Tuesday it has 60 days to "start complying" with a missile treaty or Washington could abandon the pact. 

At NATO talks in Brussels, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Russia of "cheating at its arms control obligations" under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. 

U.S. President Donald Trump previously threatened to pull out of the bilateral pact.

Pompeo warned Russia that if it did not dismantle its 9M279 mobile ground-launched missile system, Washington would no longer be bound by the treaty.
NATO and the US say the 9M279 -- also known by the designation SSC-8 -- violates the INF treaty.

The INF Treaty, signed by Moscow and Washington in 1987, bans ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The New START Treaty, which expires in 2021, limits the number of deployed intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, nuclear-armed bombers, and nuclear warheads.

Russia says the range of the new system does not exceed 500 kilometers.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters the United States has still provided zero evidence to support allegations of violating the accord. Putin also said if Washington wants to develop weapons banned under the INF treaty, Moscow would follow suit.

The U.S. has shared "intelligence evidence" with its NATO allies that Russia's new 9M279 ground-fired cruise missile could give Moscow the ability to launch a nuclear strike in Europe with little or no notice.

U.S. allies in NATO said Tuesday they "strongly support the finding of the United States that Russia is in material breach of its obligations." They called on Russia "to return urgently to full and verifiable compliance."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the 29 NATO allies will "collectively develop responses" should the treaty be abandoned, but he declined to say what they might be.

"We call on Russia to return urgently to full and verifiable compliance with the INF Treaty. It is now up to Russia to preserve the INF Treaty ... So Russia now has a last chance to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty but we must also start to prepare for a world without the Treaty," Stoltenberg said.