Russia has condemned a test in the United States of a missile that was banned under a recently scrapped arms control agreement, raising the spectre of an arms race between the former Cold War rivals.
Washington said on Monday it had tested a modified ground-launched version of a Tomahawk cruise missile which had hit its target more than 500 kilometres away. The weapon was not armed with a nuclear warhead, officials said.
The missile was banned under the INF Treaty, from which the United States officially withdrew earlier this month after repeatedly accusing Russia of violating the agreement. Moscow said it was in full compliance with the treaty, which was signed between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.
“All this elicits regret,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the state-run TASS news agency on Tuesday. “The United States has obviously taken the course of escalating military tensions. We will not succumb to provocations.”
Mr Ryabkov also said Moscow would not allow itself to be drawn into a “costly arms race”.
The Trump administration set about abandoning the International Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was the only Soviet-era arms control agreement still intact, shortly after US President Donald Trump took office in 2016.
Washington accused Moscow of violating the treaty, which banned developing, producing or deploying ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of more than 500 kilometres, and gave the Kremlin a 60-day grace period in which to comply with the pact.
Russia, which has also voiced scepticism over the deal in recent years because it allowed regional rivals including Iran and China to develop missiles unimpeded, allowed the deadline to expire. Moscow has levied its own allegations that the US violated the terms of the pact.
Mr Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who signed the INF treaty, said the pact’s demise would bring about “chaos in world politics” after the United States withdrew in early August.
On Tuesday, Mr Rybakov said the timing of the missile test was evidence that the US had been in violation of the treaty, given how little time had elapsed between the treaty being disbanded and the missile test.
“It is noteworthy that the test of an advanced Tomahawk-type missile was conducted just 16 days after the US withdrew from INF, and the treaty was terminated,” he said.
“Perhaps, there can be no clearer and more explicit confirmation of the fact that the United States has been developing such systems for a long time, and preparations for quitting the agreement included, in particular, the relevant research and development.”
The United States has said it is committed to agreeing on a new arms control pact with Russia, as long as it also includes China. In July, Russian and White House officials met in Geneva with the aim of establishing the framework for a new agreement.
Chinese officials declined to attend the summit, saying there was no basis for Beijing to enter into an agreement with Russia and the United States.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Tuesday also condemned the US missile test, accusing Washington of stoking a new arms race and threatening regional security.
“We advise the US side to abandon outdated notions of Cold War thinking and zero-sum games, and exercise restraint in developing arms,” Mr Shuang told reporters.