NATO and Russia are clashing over the country’s introduction of a new medium-range missile, when 29 envoys from security alliance met with Russia in Brussels, calling on the country to destroy the missile before a Wednesday deadline.
If Russia does not comply, the United States will go through with President Donald Trump’s call to start the six-month process to pull out of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) on that deadline.
The INF Treaty requires that the United States and Russia — the two biggest nuclear powers in the world — eliminate all nuclear and conventional ground-launched 500 to 5,500 km-range (310-3,420 miles) cruise and ballistic and missiles.
“The treaty is in real jeopardy,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday. “The sooner Russia comes back into compliance, the better. The treaty has no value if it is not respected, the problem are the Russian missiles in Europe,” he told reporters.
Trump first announced his decision to withdraw from the agreement last October, giving Russia time to comply with the terms of the treaty. Russia, for its part, has also indicated in the past that it would like to leave the INF, saying that the treaty unfairly prevents it from developing weapons other countries are moving ahead with (notably, China, which is not a signatory to the treaty).
The Trump administration is increasingly seeing China as a threat, with multiple assessments pointing to its increased military spending and capabilities.
The threat of the United States unilaterally pulling out of the INF is pretty much of zero consequence to Russia, essentially freeing the country to develop and increase the capabilities limited by the treaty.
Also, as the Arms Control Association points out, without an INF Treaty, the world will face the additional challenge of “how to prevent the buildup of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and Asia.”
For its part, Russia denies that the nuclear-capable missile is in violation of the terms of the treaty, and claiming that the Novator 9M729/SSC-8 rockets, with a maximum range of 480km (298 miles) fall under the range prohibited by the INF. NATO diplomats, though, say there’s no way of confirming this.
The Kremlin has accused the United States of breaching the treaty by building the NATO missile defense system in Romania. Russia has also accused the United States of restarting the Cold War by reviving a plan to deploy a missile defense system in space.
Space Force all the way!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2018
Critics of the plan have called it “fundamentally flawed,” worrying that it will be seen as a threat by other countries and trigger a possible war in space.