Russia wants U.S. nuclear weapons and missiles systems “eliminated” from Europe, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday, escalating a roiling controversy over Russian violations of a landmark arms control treaty.
“Everyone will feel more at ease when all U.S. nuclear weapons return to U.S. territory, and infrastructure in Europe which allows to store, service and deploy those weapons, will be eliminated,” Medvedev said, according to the state news agency.
Medvedev’s comments came one day after the Kremlin released an order suspending Russian compliance with the INF Treaty, a landmark ban on ground-based intermediate range cruise missiles. The Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaty has collapsed after NATO accused Russia of deploying the illicit missiles on the continent and lying about it. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo started the formal six-month process of withdrawing from the treaty in February in response.
The United States reportedly has deployed about 150 nuclear weapons in Europe, hosted by five NATO countries. The stockpiles were reduced substantially during George W. Bush’s presidency, according to government researchers, but the new F-35 fighter jets purchased by several European countries can carry nuclear weapons if needed.
Russia has been warning European nations not to allow the U.S. to deploy the controversial cruise missiles on the continent, while claiming that NATO’s missile defense systems violate the deal. “Any attempts at nuclear blackmailing, in our opinion, exacerbate international tensions,” Medvedev said.
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