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Russia Hits Back At U.S. Charges Of INF Treaty Violations


Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and U.S. President Ronald Reagan sign the INF Treaty in 1987.

Russia has hit back against charges by the United States that Moscow is violating terms of an important Cold War arms treaty.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on December 9 issued a statement saying, "The accusations are absolutely unfounded."

The statement came a day after the United States said it was taking military and economic measures against Moscow in response to the increasingly tense dispute over a Russian missile that Washington says violates the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

The remarks by the State Department signaled a more deliberate approach by President Donald Trump's administration to the dispute over the 30-year-old treaty.

The treaty is considered a landmark deal between the United States and the Soviet Union, eliminating for the first time an entire class of cruise and ballistic missiles in Europe. It also established a verification framework to ensure compliance.

The United States first formally accused Russia of developing a missile in violation of the INF back in 2014, though intelligence experts said the system had been under development for several years prior to that.

Earlier this year, Washington said the missile was operational and had been deployed.

On November 29, Christopher Ford, a White House National Security Council official involved in arms control, for the first time identified the missile designation -- 9M729 -- which outside arms-control experts have been focusing on for some time now.

That has led to concerns that the new missile could be indistinguishable from an existing system that is not covered by the INF treaty: the highly sophisticated Iskander-M. That would pose a challenge for inspecting and verifying the weapon is in compliance.

The U.S. statement of December 8 did not specify what measures would be taken, but it said it would pursue diplomatic, economic, and military steps to push Moscow back into compliance.

Ryabkov’s statement said there was no proof that Moscow had violated the treaty by developing the new missile system. He said the missile in question has a much shorter range than the United States has alleged.

"The attempts to frighten us like that is just ridiculous," said Ryabkov, who added that economic or military pressure would not have an impact on Moscow.

U.S. and Russian technical experts and officials are scheduled to meet next week as part of the Special Verification Commission process related to the INF Treaty. Past meetings have been seen as accomplishing little.

Ryabkov said the new U.S. allegations could “derail” the SVC talks.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Mike Eckel, dpa, and TASS
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