NATO said Tuesday that Russia must destroy a new missile system the U.S. claims to be in violation of a Cold War-era nuclear-arms treaty or face the consequences.
The U.S. and its NATO allies have demanded Moscow give up the 9M729/SSC-8 nuclear-capable cruise-missile system by August, as it violates the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The treaty bans either country from possessing land-based nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with a range between 310 and 3,410 miles. The U.S. will officially withdraw from the deal on August 2 if negotiations fall through.
“We call on Russia to take the responsible path, but we have seen no indication that Russia intends to do so,” said NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg. “We will need to respond.”
That response could include flying U.S. warplanes capable of carrying nuclear weapons over Europe as well as repositioning U.S. sea-based missiles. “All options are on the table, but we are looking at conventional systems. That’s important for our European allies to know,” U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison told reporters.
Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said in March that the Kremlin wants U.S. nuclear weapons and missile systems completely removed from Europe, a day after Russia said it was suspending its obligations under the arms deal. The U.S. currently has about 150 nuclear weapons stationed in five European NATO countries.
In December, Russian president Vladimir Putin made a thinly disguised threat to Western powers who might consider attacking Russia.
“I hope our new systems will provide food for thought to those who are used to militaristic and aggressive rhetoric,” Putin said in an address to his defense advisers, before complaining that “NATO continued to build up its military infrastructure near our borders during the year.”