WORLD Moscow open to INF discussions
MOSCOW — Moscow’s proposals to discuss issues related to the IntermediateRange Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) with the United States remain on the table, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters at a press briefing yesterday, commenting on the ultimatum on the treaty put forward by the US and NATO.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at a meeting of the NATO member-states’ top diplomats in Brussels that his country would launch the procedure of pulling out of the INF Treaty, if Russia did not return to compliance with the treaty within 60 days and did not eliminate the program to create missile systems, which, according to Washington, went beyond the scope of the agreement.
For their part, all 29 NATO member-countries signed a declaration expressing their full support for the United States’ actions. Moscow has flatly rejected Washington’s accusations.
“We [Russia] are ready to continue the dialogue in appropriate formats on the entire range of problems related to this document on the basis of professionalism and mutual respect, without putting forward unsubstantiated accusations and ultimatums. Our proposals are well known and remain on the negotiating table,” she said.
The diplomat said Russia has started considering the US and NATO statement on withdrawing from the INF Treaty in 60 days.
“We have admitted these documents for further consideration. This text again includes accusations in the form of unfounded and unsubstantiated information about Russia’s alleged violations of this deal,” Zakharova said.
The diplomat noted that Russia has repeatedly stated that these are unfounded accusations, and no evidence had been provided to confirm the US stance. “If they [documents] have been provided by the US side to NATO member-states, why does the US hide them from Russia?” she said.
EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini yesterday urged Russia and the US to save a Cold War arms control treaty after Wash- ington issued a 60-day ultimatum to Moscow.
Mogherini pleaded for the treaty to be saved, warning that Europe did not want to become a battlefield for global powers once again, as it had been during the Cold War.
“The INF has guaranteed peace and security in European territory for 30 years now,” Mogherini said as she arrived for talks with NATO foreign ministers.
“It has to be fully implemented, so I hope that the time that is there to work on preserving the treaty and achieving its full implementation can be used wisely from all sides, and we will definitely try to make our part to make sure this happens.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday warned Russia that if it did not dismantle its 9M279 mobile ground- launched missile system, Washington would no longer be bound by the treaty.
NATO and the US 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 5,500km.
The nuclear- capable Russian missiles are mobile and hard to detect and can hit cities in Europe with little or no warning, according to NATO, dramatically changing the security calculus on the continent.
NATO foreign ministers issued a joint statement putting the onus squarely on Russia to save the INF, saying the US had remained “in full compliance”.
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.
The 60-day grace period — granted by the US as a concession to European partners who wanted to give Moscow a last chance — will expire at a meeting of NATO defence ministers in February.
The INF treaty, signed by US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, ended a dangerous build- up of nuclear weapons triggered by Moscow’s deployment of SS- 20 missiles targeting Western European capitals. — TASS/AFP