Published: Thu, February 14, 2019

NATO Defence Ministers meet to address Russia's violation of the INF Treaty

NATO Defence Ministers meet to address Russia's violation of the INF Treaty

During a gathering of NATO defence ministers in Brussels, Mr Stoltenberg urged Russian Federation to follow the rules of the treaty which, signed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and the president of the then-USSR Mikhail Gorbachev, banned all nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with short and medium ranges.

The two-day meeting in Brussels is the first chance for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ministers to debate what steps the alliance will take to bolster its defence against new Russian medium-range missiles.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance is studying options to deal with what it insists are Russian violations of a key missile treaty but that it wants to avoid sparking any arms race.

On Feb. 2, Washington launched the six-month process for leaving the INF, insisting that a new Russian Federation missile system breaks the pact's range requirements.

The collapse of the 1987 treaty, which banned ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres, has sparked fears of a new arms race in Europe.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said a "broad mix of measures" was being considered, and unexpectedly - given Berlin's softly-softly approach on the INF issue - she refused to rule out the deployment of nuclear missiles.

"Moscow continues to develop and deploy several battalions of the SSC-8 missile", Stoltenberg said. "We all know that a treaty that is only respected by one side can not keep us safe". President Vladimir Putin has announced that he is pulling Russian Federation out of the INF too.

Moscow denies the missile breaches the terms of the INF treaty and has made various counter-allegations against the US.

Stoltenberg's comments came after Russia's Ministry of Defense said last Thursday that the United States should destroy its MK-41 missile defense systems deployed in Romania in order to return to compliance.

The U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, sought to reassure them.

Ruling out the adoption of nuclear weapons at this stage, Mr Stoltenberg said: "Any steps we take will be coordinated, measured and defensive".

"Our allies want to know what the future will be, and the future will be that we will start the development of a defensive mechanism and we will keep our allies informed all along the way".

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