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NATO Urges Russia To Honor INF Treaty Amid U.S. Threat To Withdraw

The Soviet-era SS-4 is a medium-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile that was banned by the INF treaty.
The Soviet-era SS-4 is a medium-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile that was banned by the INF treaty.

NATO has urged Russia to continue to honor a key nuclear-arms treaty amid U.S. threats to pull out of the pact because of alleged violations by Moscow.

"No arms-control arrangement can be effective if it is only respected by one side," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on October 31 at a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels, according to an alliance statement.

The talks between the Russian and NATO ambassadors, the first such meeting since May, came against a backdrop of renewed tensions between the West and Russia.

A source of discord is what NATO says is Russia's deployment of a cruise missile that violates the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and could potentially be used to target alliance members in Europe.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin has accused the alliance of provocative behavior near its borders, while NATO has sharply criticized the annexation of Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014, as well as Moscow’s backing of separatists in an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month declared his intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty, citing alleged Russian violations since 2014 and concern that China is not covered by its ban on ground-launched short- and intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles.

Russia has repeatedly denied the accusations and also alleged that some elements of the U.S. missile-defense systems in Europe were in violation of the agreement. Washington denies that.

"For over five years, the United States has pursued diplomatic and technical avenues with Russia aimed at preserving the INF Treaty," Stoltenberg said.

Meanwhile, the allies have "expressed serious concerns" about the Russian cruise missile and urged Moscow to provide "full transparency" on the weapon.

Stoltenberg also said that Russia's reluctance to heed NATO's calls reinforced the belief that the cruise missile "poses a serious risk to the strategic stability of the Euro-Atlantic area."

The alliance was "committed to take effective measures to continue to ensure the safety and security of all allies," the NATO chief added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned that the U.S. plan could lead to a new "arms race."

The NATO statement said the participants at the NATO-Russia Council meeting had an "open exchange" of views on topics including Ukraine, Afghanistan, Russia's Vostok military exercises in September, and NATO's ongoing Trident Juncture drills.

Amid persistent tension between NATO and Russia, the Western alliance this month launched the Trident Juncture war games -- its largest since the end of the Cold War.

The drills, which will run until November 7, will stretch from the North Atlantic Ocean to the Baltic Sea and involve around 50,000 soldiers, 10,000 vehicles, 250 aircraft, and ships from all 29 NATO allies, plus partners Finland and Sweden.

Russia held large military exercises called Zapad-2017 (West-2017) in September last year in its western regions jointly with Belarus, which borders several NATO countries, and last month conducted massive drills -- Vostok-2018 (East-2018) -- across its central and eastern regions.

NATO suspended practical cooperation with Moscow in 2014 in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine. However, political dialogue has remained open via the NATO-Russia Council.

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