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U.S. Says 'In Compliance' With Treaty After Russia Demands Washington Destroy Defense System


The deckhouse of the Aegis Ashore missile-defense system at Deveselu Air Base

The United States says it is in "full compliance" with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the landmark Cold War-era nuclear accord.

The statement from the U.S. mission to NATO on February 8 came a day after Russia demanded the United States destroy a missile-defense launch system deployed in NATO member Romania in order to return to compliance with the INF.

The United States announced on February 2 that it would withdraw in six months from the 1987 INF Treaty unless Moscow ended what it says were violations of the pact. Moscow, which denies violating the treaty, followed suit a day later.

"The United States has repeatedly engaged Russian officials in multiple venues including the Treaty’s Special Verification Commission, or SVC, to explain why U.S. actions in these areas are in compliance," said the statement from the U.S. mission to NATO.

The Mark 41 Vertical Launching System (Mk 41 VLS) is part of the missile-defense system located in Deveselu, in southern Romania, known as Aegis Ashore.

Aegis Ashore was inaugurated in May 2016 and is tasked with shooting down rockets as part of a larger defense shield against potential threats from rogue states such as Iran.

Russians have long claimed that the Mk 41 VLS system allows Aegis Ashore to also launch ground-based cruise missiles.

The accusation has been categorically rejected by Washington and NATO, which say the system does not have the software or the hardware needed for that, and its role is only to intercept missiles.

Russia's demand about the Mk41 appears to come as a countermeasure to Washington's accusation, first leveled in 2014, that Moscow is in violation of the INF because of its developing of a cruise missile known as 9M729, or SSC-8.

Romanian Defense Minister Teodor Melescanu on February 7 also reiterated that Aegis Ashore was a strictly defensive system.

Russia's demand "is purely an excuse for its own military programs that directly violate the INF Treaty," Melescanu said, adding that Romania will hold consultations with its allies and will come up with a common position on the issue.

Valery Kuzmin, Russia's envoy to Romania, told a news conference in Bucharest on February 7 that Moscow was not planning any "hostile or unfriendly actions" toward Romania.

However, since Romania hosts the U.S. missile-defense system on its territory, "it cannot be overlooked by the Russian defense planning," Kuzmin said in response to an RFE/RL reporter's question.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Romanian Service, G4media.ro, and Reuters
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