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Save US-Russia nuclear treaty, European Union urges

05 December 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at NATO Headquarters Tuesday that the USA will suspend its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty in 60 days because of Russia's continued violations of the treaty, shortly after NATO's foreign ministers affirmed its support for that conclusion in a new joint statement.

NATO and the U.S. say the 9M279 - also known by the designation SSC-8 - violates the INF treaty, which banned ground-launched missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometres.

The United States warned Russia Tuesday it has 60 days to start complying with a landmark missile treaty or Washington could abandon the pact, creating doubts about nuclear security in Europe.

Over the past five years, Washington has raised its concerns over the Russian missiles at least 30 times, Pompeo said, only to be met with denials, obfuscation and spurious counter-claims from Moscow.

Pompeo said there was no reason why the USA "should continue to cede this crucial military advantage" to rival powers.

Trump's chief diplomat Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation headquarters for a ministerial meeting on Tuesday and won support for a tough stance from the allies.

DW's correspondent at NATO Teri Schultz said the U.S. had allowed the 60-day concession in response to European concerns over an immediate withdrawal and followed direct intervention by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He also suggested a possible ban on Russian ships entering other countries' ports if Moscow continues to block the Sea of Azov and said he would raise the idea with European Union ministers next week.

On Monday, three Democrat senators - Bob Menendez, Jack Reed, and Mark Warner - criticized Trump's intent to walk away from the treaty, calling it a "political and geostrategic gift to Russian Federation", arguing it lacked "strategic forethought" and could even affect other arms control treaties, including the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

The US has shared intelligence evidence that the ground-fired cruise missile could give Moscow the ability to launch a nuclear strike in Europe with little or no notice.

Until then, Pompeo said, the USA would not "test or produce or deploy any systems" that would breach the treaty.

Europeans are concerned that the U.S. would once again be obliged to deploy its own missiles across the continent should the treaty fall apart. Tests and deployments of new missiles were on hold, he said.

Britain's chief of the defence staff, General Sir Nick Carter, has also said Russian Federation is in breach of the agreement - telling MPs "we need to call them out" for a deployment of "systems which break the 500km to 5,000km range".

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, warned that failing to negotiate a solution with Moscow "risks the start of a new missile race in Europe that will undermine European security".

Save US-Russia nuclear treaty, European Union urges