U.S. Gives Russia 60 Days To Comply With Nuclear Arms Pact
By RFE/RL December 04, 2018
The United States says it will suspend its obligations under a Cold War nuclear arms treaty if Moscow does not return to compliance within two months.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decision on December 4 after NATO allies meeting in Brussels "strongly" supported U.S. accusations that Russia violated the terms of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between Moscow and Washington.
The pact prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,000 kilometers.
Amid heightened tensions between Moscow and the West, U.S. President Donald Trump in October vowed to abandon the treaty, saying Russia had been violating it with a new missile system.
Russia has said little about its Novator 9M729 cruise missile, also known as the SSC-8, other than to deny that it is in breach of the pact.
Accusing Russia of "cheating at its arms control obligations," Pompeo told a news conference in Brussels that Russia has 60 days to return to compliance with the treaty, after which time the United States would suspend its own compliance.
"During this 60 days we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we'll see what happens during this 60-day period," he said.
"We've talked to the Russians a great deal," the state secretary also said. "We're hopeful they'll change course, but there's been no indication to date that they have any intention of doing so."
Pompeo said Russia had developed "multiple battalions" of the SSC-8, adding that its range "makes it a direct menace to Europe."
In a joint statement issued earlier in the day, the NATO foreign ministers said Russia had "developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security."
The ministers from the 29-member alliance called on Moscow to "return urgently to full and verifiable compliance," saying, "It's now up to Russia to preserve the INF Treaty."
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said it was "essential to act in a firm and united way" and that Moscow would bear the responsibility if the 1987 agreement collapsed.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that although Moscow has a last chance to comply, "we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty," which was the first to abolish a whole category of weapons.
"This was really arms control at its best and therefore it's a really a big setback if this treaty now breaks totally down," Stoltenberg said.
In Moscow, Vladimir Shamanov, who heads the Defense Committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, said Moscow would not reply to the West's "false accusations."
"Russia is not the kind of country one can give ultimatums to. Russia too has questions for the U.S., ones that they have left unanswered," said Shamanov, according to the Interfax news agency.
Moscow has alleged that some elements of U.S. missile-defense systems in Europe were in violation of the treaty, which Washington denies.
With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and Interfax
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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