BRUSSELS — The United States warned Russia Tuesday it has 60 days to start complying with a landmark missile treaty or Washington could abandon the pact, creating doubts about nuclear security in Europe.
At NATO talks in Brussels, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Russia of “cheating at its arms control obligations” under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Pompeo warned that if Russia did not comply with the treaty’s terms within 60 days, Washington could activate a six-month notice period for leaving the 1987 pact.
“Russia must return to full and verifiable compliance; Russia’s failure to do so will result in the demise of the INF Treaty,” Pompeo told reporters.
“Our nations have a choice. We either bury our head in the sand or we take common sense action in response to Russia’s flagrant disregard for the expressed terms of the INF Treaty,” he said.
The U.S. has shared intelligence evidence with its NATO allies that Russia’s new SSC-8 ground-fired cruise missile could give Moscow the ability to launch a nuclear strike in Europe with little or no notice.
The bilateral treaty between Washington and Moscow banned all land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310-3,410 miles). Russia says the range of the new system does not exceed 500 kilometers.
Pompeo said Washington “would welcome a Russian change of heart” but that he has seen no indication that Moscow is likely to comply.
U.S. allies in NATO said Tuesday they “strongly support the finding of the United States that Russia is in material breach of its obligations.” They called on Russia “to return urgently to full and verifiable compliance.”
While Pompeo did not announce the end of the pact, its demise seems all but certain.
“I regret that we now most likely will see the end of the INF Treaty,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, adding that “no arms control agreement will work if it is only respected by one party.”
Stoltenberg said the 29 NATO allies will “collectively develop responses” should the treaty be abandoned, but he declined to say what they might be.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said he does not see the Russians returning to compliance under current conditions.