US State Secretary Mike Pompeo can easily find out that Moscow strictly abides by the INF nuclear missile treaty the US is threatening to quit – by taking up an invitation to the test of the Russian missile, a Moscow senator says.
The symbolic invite from the head of the Russian Senate’s defense and security committee came right after Pompeo declared Russia “in violation” of the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and announced that the US will withdraw from it in 60 days if Moscow’s behavior does not change.
“Today, we must confront Russian cheating on its arms controls obligations,” Pompeo told reporters following NATO foreign ministers’ meeting. He also claimed that Russia’s new cruise missile, that it allegedly “has been flight-testing … since the mid-2000s,” violates the INF treaty.
Russia “can invite Pompeo to personally visit the test” of the missile he says violates the treaty, Senator Franz Klintsevich said. He added that the weapon system, which has attracted such obsessive attention of the Western officials, has a range of 498 kilometers – less than the bottom boundary set for missiles banned by the treaty.
Calling the stir around the Russian ‘secret weapon’ absolutely baseless, he argued it’s being used by Washington to “deceive the international community and advance its own plans.” Klintsevich believes that the accusations are simply an excuse for the US to leave the treaty.
Washington is “well aware” of Russia’s “full compliance” with the INF treaty, Russia’s Foreign Ministry’s Spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said responding to Pompeo Monday.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has meanwhile echoed Pompeo’s ultimatum to Moscow by saying that “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.”
With the US apparently determined to leave the agreement, which its NATO allies called “a pillar of Euro-Atlantic security for more than 30 years,” Moscow said that Washington’s move would not be left unanswered.
“If the US withdraws from the INF and deploys short and medium-range missiles in Europe, Russia will increase the number of missiles on its European territories,” another Russian senator, Vladimir Dzhabarov said.
Over the past years, the US has been claiming that Russia has been violating the INF by building missiles that exceed the prohibited range. Moscow has refuted the allegations and in turn accused the US of non-compliance, arguing that Washington can convert the missile defense sites in Eastern Europe into offensive intermediate-range launchers.
The tensions around the agreement heightened in October when US National Security Advisor John Bolton reaffirmed US President Donald Trump’s intent to pull out from the INF agreement during his visit to Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin responded that Washington’s decision to withdraw from the agreement “cannot and will not be left unanswered.”
Meanwhile, not everyone in Washington has been supportive of plans to withdraw from the treaty. Several US senators have criticized President Donald Trump’s willingness to leave the agreement by saying the move lacked “strategic forethought” and could jeopardize other arms control treaties.
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