U.S. Calls on Russia to Destroy New Missile System

GENEVA (Reuters) -
U.S. Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament Robert Wood. (Reuters/Denis Balibouse/File Photo)

The United States called on Russia on Monday to destroy a new cruise missile system which it said constituted a “direct violation” of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and accused Moscow of destabilizing global security.

“Unfortunately, the United States increasingly finds that Russia cannot be trusted to comply with its arms control obligations and that its coercive and malign actions around the globe have increased tensions,” Robert Wood, U.S. disarmament ambassador, told the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.

“Russia must verifiably destroy all SSC-8 missiles, launchers and associated equipment in order to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty,” he said, reiterating the Trump administration’s plan to withdraw from the 1987 pact in early February.

The INF treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ratified by the U.S. Senate, 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.

The treaty bans land-based missiles with a range between 300-3,400 miles.

“Russia must come back into compliance,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters after a meeting at NATO last week.

But he said the alliance now needed to be prepared for the collapse of the INF treaty and that he had asked military authorities to look into the consequences, although he declined to go into details.

European allies are worried about the deployment of U.S. missiles in Europe, as happened in the 1980s, while being caught up in nuclear competition between Moscow and Washington.

“This is part of a pattern where Russia is investing in, modernizing, exercising and testing nuclear weapons,” Stoltenberg told Reuters. “I think the whole idea is for Russia to try to be able to reestablish a sphere of influence where they can try to intimidate and control some of their neighbors.”

Russia denies any such strategy and accuses President Donald Trump of using Moscow as a pretext to quit the INF.

Last Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was ready to save the pact and the United States had not properly considered Moscow’s proposals and prevent a new arms race in Europe.

Moscow says the range puts them outside the treaty and the distance they can fly is not as long as Washington alleges, meaning Moscow is fully compliant with the INF.