Russia will certainly respond to the US’s decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, if such a step is ultimately taken, Russia’s Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov said on Wednesday.
According to him, any European countries which agree to host American missile launchers will inevitably become the targets of a Russian response strike.
“As military professionals, you must understand that it is not the US, but the countries that have American systems with intermediate and short-range cruise missiles deployed in them, that will become the targets for Russia’s response actions,” Gerasimov said, adding that he “wants to convey this information to the leaders” of European countries’ defense departments.
Gerasimov said that by accusing Russia of violating the agreement which put an end to the Cold War in 1987, the US is “trying to camouflage the true state of affairs”, whereas the “real picture” is that the States are violating the treaty themselves.
The MK-41 universal launchers deployed in Romania and soon to be deployed in Poland can fire intermediate range cruise missiles, “which is a direct violation” of the INF Treaty, the Chief of General Staff observed.
Furthermore, Washington is violating another key agreement – the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II), which prohibited both Russia and the US from having more than 1,550 nuclear warheads in their armaments.
“In order to get out of the numerical parameters established by the treaty, over the course of two years, our American partners reequipped some of their strategic offensive facilities (four launchers on each of the 14 Ohio-class submarines and 41 B-52H heavy bombers) and unilaterally excluded them from the calculation for the treaty. This gives them the ability to rapidly expand the potential of their strategic offensive forces and to increase the number of warheads by more than 1,200,” Gerasimov remarked.
Gerasimov met with military attachés the day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered the Kremlin an ultimatum during an address at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, demanding that Russia comply with the INF Treaty within 60 days.
According to Der Spiegel, in November the US showed its NATO allies satellite photos of Russia testing an SSC-8 missile (also known as the 9M729 in Russia). Washington believes the missile’s flight trajectory implies a range of between 500-5,500 km, which the INF Treaty prohibits.
NATO supports the US’s conclusions, and urges Russia to resume compliance with the treaty as soon as possible, the alliance noted after a meeting of its foreign ministers on Tuesday.