29 September 2019
A NATO spokesperson announced on 27 September that the alliance formally rejected a call from Russian President Vladimir Putin to prohibit the deployment of any missiles into Europe that would have violated the recently abandoned 1987 US-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.
The US withdrew from the INF Treaty on 2 August after accusing Russia of violating it, a claim Moscow denies. The INF Treaty banned all missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometres, and its collapse could spark the new development and deployment of ground-launched nuclear and conventional ballistic and cruise missiles. The United States tested a medium-range cruise missile (that would have violated the treaty had it still been in force) only 16 days after pulling out of the treaty. Russia is planning a reciprocal response.
“Unless and until Russia verifiably destroys the SSC-8 system, this moratorium on deployments is not a real offer,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungesu was quoted as saying by the Financial Times. SSC-8 is NATO’s designation for the nuclear-capable 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, which the alliance says violates the INF Treaty’s range limits. Russia denies that the new missile’s range puts it outside the treaty and rejected a US demand to destroy it. NATO has “heard this proposal before” and saw it as “not a credible offer,” Lungescu said.
NATO has insisted it has no plans to deploy new nuclear missiles in Europe in response to Russia’s 9M729 missile, although a range of other “measured and defensive” options are under consideration (see NATO Watch Briefing Paper No.68).