Nato says Russia in breach of Cold War-era nuclear treaty as US says it will suspend participation

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo says the breach cannot not be seen 'in isolation' from Russia's other actions on the international stage

Chris Stevenson
New York
Tuesday 04 December 2018 19:39 GMT
US suspends participation in Cold War-era nuclear treaty after Russia found in breach of agreement

Nato has accused Russia of violating a landmark Cold War-era nuclear treaty, paving the way for the US to leave the pact.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said America would suspend its treaty obligations in 60 days over the alleged violations. The six-month withdrawal period from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) would begin after this point.

Mr Pompeo said Russia had developed “multiple battalions of the SSC-8 missiles”, referring to the land-based, intermediate-range cruise missile which also has the name of Novator 9M729.

Mr Pompeo claims that Moscow has been testing the missile since the mid-2000s.

“Its range makes it a direct menace to Europe,” he told a conference after a meeting with his Nato counterparts.

Nato allies, led by Germany, pressed Mr Pompeo at a meeting in Brussels to give diplomacy one last chance before Washington pulls out of the treaty, amid fears over a new arms race in Europe.

In turn, the foreign ministers agreed to formally declare Russia in “material breach” of the INF treaty in a statement in support of the US.

Russia denies undertaking any such development of the SSC-8 missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and hitting European cities at short notice.

While Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said there would now be an intense diplomatic push to try to convince Russia to give up the missiles, Washington is set to pull out in February.

Mr Pompeo said the world needed to face “Russian cheating” on its arms obligations. He said nations face a choice to “stick our heads in the sand” or challenge Moscow.

The secretary of state said Washington had raised the issue at least 30 times and faced “baseless accusations” from Russia in return.

“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,” Mr Pompeo said.

Mr Pompeo said the actions over the missile cannot be seen “in isolation” from Moscow’s behaviour around the world – including the conflict in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, the Salisbury poisoning and other incidents.

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The secretary of state has signalled that Washington will be forced to restore the military balance in Europe after that period but has so far declined to give more details, saying only that tests and deployments of new missiles were on hold until the US withdrawal from the treaty is confirmed.

The Russian foreign ministry denied the allegations. On Tuesday, spokesperson Maria Zakharova said: “Russia strictly complies with the provisions of the treaty, and the American side is aware of that.”

Russia has repeatedly insisted the SSC-8 missile system at the core of the allegations does not exceed ranges specified in the treaty.

The INF treaty was negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It 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.

US cruise and Pershing missiles deployed in Britain and West Germany were removed as a result, while the Soviet Union pulled its SS-20s out of European range.

Reuters contributed to this report

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