BRUSSELS • The United States has warned that it could resort to strikes against a new class of Russian missiles unless Moscow complies with its international commitments to arms reduction.
Nato defence ministers were yesterday due to discuss their concerns that Russia is building a medium-range ballistic missile in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, said US envoy Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Russia has over "several years" refused to accept US evidence of breaches, so "we need to look for other ways to bring Russia to the table on the issues", Ms Hutchison told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday, ahead of the meeting.
"The countermeasures would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty."
The US ambassador made an "absolutely irresponsible statement", the Interfax news service cited the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying.
"It looks like people who make such statements don't realise the degree of their responsibility and the danger of aggressive rhetoric," Tass quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova as saying. "Our military experts will give a detailed answer," Ms Zakharova said, according to Tass.
The US envoy later clarified that she was not advocating a pre-emptive strike against Russia. "I was not talking about pre-emptively striking Russia. My point: Russia needs to return to INF Treaty compliance or we will need to match its capabilities to protect US & Nato interests," she said in a tweet.
The countermeasures would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty.
U.S. AMBASSADOR KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation issued a statement in December underscoring the so-called INF Treaty's "crucial" role in ensuring security for 30 years by "removing an entire class of US and Russian weapons" - ground-launched intermediate-range missiles - and calling on Russia to address "serious concerns" about a missile system identified by Nato members.
"Now this treaty is in danger because of Russian actions," Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg told a parallel briefing in Brussels on Tuesday.
He cited development of a new ground-launched cruise missile known as 9M729, whose existence Russia only recently acknowledged "after years of denials".
Mr Stoltenberg called on Russia to urgently address concerns that the new system may be in violation of the INF Treaty in a substantial and transparent manner, saying that "Russia has not provided any credible answers on this new missile".
Ms Hutchison said that "numerous occasions" had been recorded of Russian breaches, and called on Moscow to stop the violations. Russia is "on notice", she said.
If Russia continues down the path to where it is capable of delivering, "at that point we would then be looking at a capability to take out a missile that could hit any of our countries in Europe and hit America in Alaska", Ms Hutchison said.
The US is "not moving in that direction right now", she said. Rather, the message to Russia is that "we know they have violated the treaty and we are beginning the research capabilities that are allowed by the treaty to deter a medium-range ballistic missile".