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NATO Chief Does Not Foresee New Nuclear Deployments In Europe


NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

BRUSSELS -- NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says European members of the military alliance are unlikely to deploy new nuclear weapons on their soil in response to an alleged violation of a treaty between Washington and Moscow that bans medium-range missiles.

Speaking four days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Stoltenberg said on October 24 that NATO is assessing the security implications of the alleged Russian breach.

"We will, of course, assess the implications for NATO allies for our security of the new Russian missiles and the Russian behavior," Stoltenberg said. "But I don't foresee that [NATO] allies will station more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile."

The INF treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.

Nearly 2,700 missiles were eliminated by the Soviet Union and the United States -- most of the latter in Europe -- under the treaty.

Trump said on October 20 that the United States will pull out of the treaty.

He and White House national-security adviser John Bolton, who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials in Moscow on October 22-23, cited U.S. concerns about what NATO allies say is a Russian missile that violates the pact and about weapons development by China, which is not a party to the treaty.

European governments including those of NATO members France and Germany have voiced concern about Trump's stated intention to withdraw from the INF, as has the European Union. Bolton said in Moscow that the United States has not yet made any decision to deploy missiles in Europe targeting Moscow.

Stoltenberg said that the INF is "a landmark treaty, but the problem is that no treaty can be effective -- can work -- if it's only respected by one party."

"All [NATO] allies agree that the United States is in full compliance.... The problem is Russian behavior," he said.

He also expressed hope that Russia and the United States will agree to extend New START, a treaty that restricts long-range nuclear weapons and is due to expire in 2021.

Russia, meanwhile, repeated its criticism of the U.S. plan to withdraw from the INF.

Trump has suggested that the United States will develop missiles that the treaty prohibited once it withdraws, saying when he first announced the planned pullout: "We'll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say, 'Let's really get smart and let's none of us develop those weapons.'"

That is "an extremely dangerous intention," Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on a conference call on October 24.

Peskov also said that the Kremlin is "undoubtedly ready" to discuss the possibility of a summit in Washington in 2019 between Putin and Trump, but that there was "no concrete decision on this."

Bolton has suggested that Trump and Putin, who held their first full-fledged summit in July in Helsinki, could have another such meeting in the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, Peskov said the Kremlin is preparing for a "possible meeting" between Trump and Putin at an event in Paris on November 11 commemorating the centenary of the end of World War I.

At his talks with Bolton on October 23, Putin mentioned the possibility of a Paris meeting on November 11, and Bolton said that Trump would like to hold such a meeting.

With reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Rikard Jozwiak and Reuters
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