Moscow is ready to continue dialogue with Washington to save the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a joint press conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas on Friday, TASS reported.
"Clearly, the destruction of the Treaty is fraught with the most negative consequences for global strategic stability," he said. "Following the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, the entire arms control system will be endangered, including the New START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] and nuclear non-proliferation. Today, Russia has confirmed that although the expert consultations held by Russia and the US in Geneva on January 15 ended in failure because of the United States’ ultimatum-like manner, we are still ready to continue a specific and professional dialogue to try to save this most important treaty and make a significant contribution to strategic stability," Lavrov pointed out.
The German top diplomat, in turn, said that "the Europeans are concerned about the situation because politicians and diplomats still remember the crisis that emerged after the Pershing missiles had been deployed to Europe in the past century."
On January 15, Russia and the US held inter-agency consultations on the INF Treaty in Geneva. Ryabkov said following the meeting that the US had not even tried to bring the positions of the parties closer, making it clear that it was determined to implement its plans to destroy the Treaty.
The US State Department's Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson, who led the US delegation, in turn, once again accused Russia of non-compliance with the document and said that Washington would start the process of pulling out of the INF Treaty on February 2, unless Moscow dismantled its 9M729 missile, which, according to Washington, violates the Treaty.
INF Treaty situation
The INF Treaty, signed by the Soviet Union and the United States on December 8, 1987, took effect on June 1, 1988. It applies to deployed and non-deployed ground-based missiles of intermediate range (1,000-5,000 kilometers) and shorter range (500-1,000 kilometers). In the recent years, Washington has been repeatedly accusing Russia of violating the treaty. Moscow strongly dismissed the accusations and voiced its own claims concerning Washington’s non-compliance.
On October 20, 2018, US President Donald Trump said that Washington would pull out of the INF Treaty because Russia had allegedly violated it. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said it was a dangerous move. Berlin and Beijing criticized Washington, while London voiced its support for the US, and NATO laid the blame for Trump’s decision on Russia.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said on December 4, 2018, that Washington would suspend its obligations under the Treaty unless Moscow returned to "full and verifiable" compliance within 60 days. On December 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters that Washington had not provided evidence proving Moscow’s violations of the document. He also said that Russia called for maintaining the Treaty but if the United States pulled out of it, Moscow would have to give an appropriate response.