A US withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty would require Russia to undertake measures to ensure its security, the Kremlin has warned.
If the US develops intermediate-range nuclear weapons, then Russia would have to follow suit, to “restore the balance”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by media on Monday.
US President Donald Trump announced over the weekend the US was pulling out of the deal amid accusations Russia had violated it.
The US has said Russia breached the treaty by developing the Novator 9M729 cruise missile, estimated to have a range of 2600 kilometres. The treaty, signed between the United States and the then-Soviet Union in 1987, had sought to restrict nuclear-armed missiles with a range up to 5500km.
Mr Peskov rejected accusations that Russia could have violated the deal. “Russia has been and remains committed to the provisions of this agreement,” he said, according to state news agency TASS.
Mr Trump’s announcement could herald fresh tensions between the former Cold War rivals.
While the US president has repeatedly praised Mr Putin, his administration has taken a tough line against Russia, repeatedly imposing sanctions on it.
US National Security Advisor John Bolton and his Russian counterpart, Security Council chairman Nikolai Patrushev, discussed arms control agreements, Syria, Iran, North Korea and the fight against terrorism in Monday’s meeting, according to the Security Council, as Russia sought clarification on the issue.
Russia hoped “to hear more details and clarifications on what steps the US side is planning to take,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in comments carried by state media.
The European Union called upon the US and Russia to preserve the agreement, calling it a “cornerstone” of European security.
Thanks to the INF treaty, which contributed to the end of the Cold War, almost 3000 missiles with nuclear and conventional warheads have been destroyed, EU foreign policy spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters in Brussels. NATO backed up the US claim that Russia could have violated the treaty, saying a “pattern of behaviour over many years has led to widespread doubts about Russian compliance”.
The Russian 9M729 missile system, unveiled earlier this year, raises serious concerns, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement. “In the absence of any credible answer from Russia on this new missile, allies believe that the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the INF Treaty,” the spokeswoman said.
The US has also said the treaty limited US defence capabilities in response to potential Chinese medium-range missiles.
China’s Foreign Ministry said it was “completely wrong to involve the Chinese side into the withdrawal from the treaty”.
“This treaty has played an important role in easing international relations, advancing the process of nuclear disarmament, and even maintaining a global strategic balance and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
Last week, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has said he thinks Mr Trump is making a “mistake” by leaving its nuclear weapons treaty with Russia.
Mr Gorbachev was one of the original signatories to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed originally in 1987 with then-US President Ronald Reagan.
“Under no circumstances should we tear up old disarmament agreements. … Do they really not understand in Washington what this could lead to?” Mr Gorbachev said to Interfax news agency.
Originally published as Russia goes nuclear with threat to US