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Missile Pact In Danger, NATO Chief Says After Russia Talks

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

BRUSSELS -- A meeting between NATO and Russian envoys has failed to resolve a dispute over a new Russian cruise missile that the alliance says is a threat to Europe, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on January 25.

Following the talks in Brussels, Stoltenberg said that a major Cold War-era missile pact "is now in jeopardy and unfortunately we have not seen any signs of [a] breakthrough."

The 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) between the United States and the Soviet Union bans production, testing, and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500-5,500 kilometers.

The INF has been the backbone of Europe's security system, curbing the risk of nuclear attack.

But Washington and NATO now accuse Russia of breaching the treaty by developing the 9M729 cruise missile, also known as the SSC-8.

Moscow has denied that it is violating the INF treaty, arguing that the SSC-8 has a range of only 480 kilometers. It accuses the United States in turn that it wants to abandon the pact so it can start a new arms race.

Washington has said that if Russia does not return to compliance, it will start the six-month process of leaving the pact from February 2.

Stoltenberg, speaking at a news conference where Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also in attendance, said there was "no real progress."

He said that Russia still had half a year after February 2 to come back into compliance, but after that, "the treaty will cease to exist."

With reporting by Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels, Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa