Russia has deployed “multiple battalions” of land-based intermediate-range cruise missiles for “offensive purposes” even though they are banned under a landmark nuclear arms control agreement, a senior State Department official told reporters Thursday.
“Moscow has fielded multiple battalions of SSC-8, and all of them are positioned for offensive purposes,” State Department under secretary Andrea Thompson, using the formal U.S. name for the missile, said during a media call. “If we want credible arms control deterrent, we’ve got to demonstrate that our treaties are worth the paper they’re written on.”
Those refer to land-based intermediate-range cruise missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at the NATO Foreign Minister Summit that the United States will abandon the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty unless Russia returns to compliance with the pact. But rather than issue a formal withdrawal notice on Tuesday, which would start a six-month clock for the United States to exit the agreement properly, he established 60-day window in which European allies could continue lobbying Russia to scrap the weapons systems.
“We’ve never put Russia to the test,” Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said of the 60-day window. “We really are sort of stress-testing the trustworthiness of the relationship in that sense.”
Moscow responded by threatening the European states that might host any land-based intermediate-range cruise missiles that the U.S. deploys in response.
“If the INF Treaty will be eliminated, this will not remain unanswered from our side,” Russian Army General Valery Gerasimov said during an address to foreign military representatives on Wednesday. “As military professionals, you should understand that not the territory of the United States, but the countries that deployed American complexes with medium- and shorter-range missiles, will be the targets of Russia’s response.”
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