Russia will respond if the US deploys nuclear missiles which are prohibited by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in Europe, warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as reported by Interfax.
Lavrov said he “regrets European countries’ refusal to support the preservation of the treaty”.
“Our European colleagues… are not yet ready and follow the US even in cases where it clearly goes against their own interests,” he remarked.
“All of the EU voted against our proposal [to keep the INF Treaty], that is, [they voted] in favor of the INF ceasing to exist and of having the threat of the deployment of American missiles prohibited by the treaty looming over Europe again,” Lavrov added.
“The next step will, of course, be response measures by the Russian Federation,” the foreign minister promised.
NATO has officially accused Russia of violating the INF Treaty. The US first officially warned Russia that it was violating the treaty as early as 2014. The possibility of denouncing the treaty was even considered by the Obama administration, but he decided not to take this step due to Germany’s protests and the fear that it would lead to a nuclear arms race.
On October 22, 2018, it was reported that US President Donald Trump had decided to unilaterally withdraw from the INF Treaty, since Russia was failing to comply with it, and China and other nuclear states have never even signed the treaty.
The primary reason for the US’s possible withdrawal from the treaty is Russia’s violation of it through deploying short range missiles in Europe that can carry nuclear warheads. In a meeting with NATO defense ministers, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said that unless Russia changes its behavior, Washington will be forced to create an adequate counterweight to the new Russian missiles.
The INF Treaty was signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in Washington at a US-Soviet Union summit on December 8, 1987. Both sides agreed not to produce, test or deploy ground ballistic missiles and cruise missiles of intermediate (1,000-5,500 km) or short (500-1000 km) range.