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NATO chief says missile pact in danger after Russia talks

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned Friday that Russia shows no sign of respecting a major Cold War-era missile treaty and the future of the pact is in danger as the United States readies to start pulling out of it next week.

1987 treaty bans production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is in jeopardy with no signs of a breakthrough, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday after a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels. (Stephanie Lecocq/EPA-EFE)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned Friday that Russia shows no sign of respecting a major Cold War-era missile treaty and the future of the pact is in danger as the United States readies to start pulling out of it next week.

"The treaty is now in jeopardy and unfortunately we have not seen any signs of [a] breakthrough," Stoltenberg told reporters after chairing NATO-Russia talks in Brussels.

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union bans production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres.

Russia stands accused of developing land-based, intermediate-range cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and hitting European cities at short notice, breaching the Cold War-era pact that took such rockets out of Europe.

The Kremlin, which this week displayed its missiles to foreign military attachés in Moscow, says the missiles' short range puts it outside the INF treaty. It says the Novator 9M729/SSC-8 rockets have a maximum range of 480 kilometres.

U.S. officials said there was no way of verifying that information because the missiles have only been shown publicly in a "static display" that gives no indication of their flying distance.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in October he would pull the United States out of the missile treaty. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

In October, U.S. President Donald Trump warned the United States would abandon the treaty because of multiple alleged Russian violations. Washington is due to start the six-month process of leaving the pact on Feb. 2.

But Russia has said a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty would constitute a breakup of the international arms control system and could lead to "global nuclear catastrophe."

"The responsibility to preserve the treaty lies on Russia because Russia is now violating the treaty by developing and deploying new missiles," Stoltenberg said.

"These new missiles are hard to detect. They are mobile. They are nuclear capable. They can reach European cities and they reduce the warning time, and thereby also the threshold, for any potential use of nuclear weapons in a conflict."

Asked what Moscow's attitude had been during Friday's talks, Stoltenberg said: "There was no real progress in the meeting because Russia did not indicate any willingness to change their position."

Nevertheless, he urged Russia to return to compliance over the next week and failing that, during the six-month period it would take the U.S. to leave the INF treaty.

Stoltenberg rejected Russian claims that U.S. Predator drones and ballistic missiles used for target practice violate the INF.

"Russia continues to raise this issue to deflect attention from the real issue," he said. "There are no new U.S. missiles in Europe, but there are new Russian missiles in Europe."

With files from Reuters

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