Russia, US Fail To Reach Deal To Save Cold War Nuclear Treaty
The US and Russia are on the verge of pulling out of a crucial treaty that ended the Cold War era arms race and kept missiles out of Europe.
After a meeting in Geneva between both countries’ officials, US Under Secretary for Weapons Control and International Security, Andrea Thompson, said that Moscow has blocked an inspection of its latest missile system which Washington considers a breach of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).
Thompson added that the talks in Geneva, aimed at saving the INF, did not make a “new breakthrough” and there were no signs that Russia will comply with the pact.
Russia’s offer to allow inspection of the SSC-8 nuclear-capable missile is insufficient, as Thompson said, adding that Russia demanded that it is permitted to examine the US’ missile system including drones and the missile deployment in eastern Europe.
Washington gave Moscow until February 2 to prove their compliance with the INF treaty but Russia’s commitment seems to be unlikely according to Thompson.
The INF treaty, signed by former president Ronald Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, was seen as one of the most important agreements in international weapons control. The deal expires in 2021.
The treaty banned land-based nuclear-tipped missiles with a range between 310 miles and 3,410 miles.
Russia Slams Trump
Russia accused US President Donald Trump of using Moscow as a pretext to exit from the INF. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused Washington of not considering Moscow’s proposals to the treaty.
“We are still ready to work on saving the INF Treaty. I hope those European countries, which are interested in this, maybe more than anyone else, will also make efforts not to fall behind the US position and not to approve obediently statements in NATO, laying all the blame on Russia and ignoring the facts, which we are providing and are ready to provide further, but will still try to exert influence on Washington so that it takes a more responsible position in regard to all members of the international community, first of all Europeans,” Lavrov said.
Moscow claims that the SSC-8 missile has a range which puts it in compliance with the treaty and that the distance it can fly is not as far as Washington alleges.
Russia also argues that US has yet to provide any specific evidence that Russia is in breach of the INF, adding that the system has not been tested within the range prohibited under the pact, as explained by Lavrov’s Deputy Sergey Rybakov.
The US claims their intelligence had monitored Russian flight tests in which the SSC-8 flew in excess of 300 miles. The discovery was made at the end of the Obama administration but left to the Trump administration to decide how to handle.
The US has complained that Russia is only willing to provide a so-called “static display” of the missile which cannot be used to verify the real distance of its warheads.
“The US wants to see the system in testing, not in an environment where the Russian military can “control the results,” Thompson stated.
Trump shocked Washington’s allies last October after announcing the US’ intention to leave the INF treaty. The treaty mandated the destruction of thousands of US and Soviet’s weapons, and under the pact, US nuclear missiles have stayed out of Europe for three decades
Europe Caught in the Middle
Meanwhile, members of NATO raised concern about a potential proliferation of US missiles in Europe, fearing the situation could deteriorate into a resemblance of the 1980s when the world was trapped in a nuclear arms race between Moscow and Washington.
A few days ago, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the Brussels-based organization is ready to have a dialogue with Russia, but added that he would not make any speculations about how NATO could prevent an arms race should the US withdraw from the INF.
“As long as NATO’s position is strong and solid, we can maintain dialogue with Russia. This is what I learned from Norway’s political activities [Stoltenberg served as Norway’s prime minister in 2000-2001 and 2005-2013 – TASS]. Norway has always been closely cooperating with Russia in many areas, not in spite of but because of NATO,” the Norwegian diplomat said.