Wednesday 13 November 2019

Nato calms fears of new arms race in Europe

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the Kremlin in Moscow. Photo: Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the Kremlin in Moscow. Photo: Reuters

Robin Emmott

NATO's top official yesterday blamed Russia for breaching a landmark nuclear arms pact which Washington is talking about quitting, but said he did not believe the Russian threat would lead to new deployments of US missiles in Europe.

Nato allies are due to meet today to hear Washington explain the thinking behind US President Donald Trump's move to quit the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which rid Europe of land-based nuclear missiles.

European allies see the INF treaty as a pillar of arms control and, while accepting that Moscow is violating it by developing new weapons, are concerned its collapse could lead to a new arms race, with possibly a new generation of US nuclear missiles stationed on the continent.

In his first remarks since Washington announced it planned to pull out of the INF Treaty, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg lay blame on Russia for violating the treaty by developing the SSC-8, a land-based, intermediate-range cruise missile. But he did not think this would lead to reciprocal deployment of US missiles in Europe as happened in the 1980s.

"We will assess the implications for Nato allies, for our security, of the new Russian missile... but I don't foresee that allies will station more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile," Mr Stoltenberg said.

He was speaking a day after senior US official John Bolton informed Russian President Vladimir Putin of the plans in Moscow.

Mr Trump has said the United States will develop new intermediate-range missiles unless Russia and China agree to halt development of their own.

Military experts believe the US would be better off modernising its long-range missile deterrent and ensuring it could penetrate sophisticated Russian air defences, rather than developing a new class of medium-range rockets.

"It's an extremely dangerous intention," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov of Trump's plan. "It will make the world more dangerous."

The INF treaty, negotiated by then US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ratified by the US 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.

US cruise and Pershing missiles deployed in Britain and West Germany were removed as a result, while the Soviet Union pulled back its SS-20s out of European range.

But since 2014, the US has accused Russia of breaching the INF by developing the SSC-8, though Moscow denies it is in violation and says the planned US withdrawal from the INF pact is dangerous.

Irish Independent

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