NATO on Wednesday urged Russia to comply fully with a Cold War nuclear weapons treaty after president Donald Trump announced he wanted to pull out of the deal.
The message came after a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) in Brussels.
The NATO allies “urge Russia... to ensure full compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Treaty without delay,” the transatlantic alliance said in a statement after the talks.
“While we stand ready to continue dialogue on this issue with Russia, as an Alliance we are also committed to take effective measures to continue to ensure the safety and security of all Allies,” the statement added
Trump sparked concerns earlier this month when he announced he wanted to pull out of the INF treaty, a pillar of Cold War disarmament, in response to Russia’s deployment of a missile system Washington says breaches the accord.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned last week that abandoning the INF agreement could lead to a new arms race, and vowed to respond in kind if the US deployed any new missiles on European soil.
Trump’s move is not backed by all NATO members and alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg has insisted there is no desire for reviving the Cold War or starting a new arms race.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg voiced his dissatisfaction that Moscow had not responded to the Alliance’s concerns over its SSC-8 missile programme (known in Russia as the 9M729) which Trump has argued violates the 1987 INF accord
The Russian representative at the Brussels talks assured that the new missile system does not breach the agreement and confirmed that Russia would provide the requested explanations, a diplomatic source said.
European NATO members consider the INF to be essential to security in Europe and are said to be very concerned at the potential risks if the treaty is torn up.
The INF resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals.
Washington and Moscow were called on to calm things down “but it’s very difficult,” one diplomat said.
US-Russia ties are under deep strain over accusations Moscow meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. The two countries are also at odds over Russian support for the Syrian government in the country’s civil war, and the conflict in Ukraine.
The US plan to withdraw from the INF is also targeting China. As a non-signatory, Beijing can develop intermediate-range nuclear weapons without constraints.
The talks in Brussels on Wednesday also sought to ease tensions provoked by NATO carrying out its biggest military exercises since the end of the Cold War off the coast of Norway.
Mr Stoltenberg informed the Russian representative of the objectives of the Trident Juncture exercises.
The manoeuvres are aimed at training the Atlantic Alliance to defend a member state after an aggression.
The Russian side also gave a presentation on its biggest ever military exercises, Vostok-2018, held September in eastern Siberia and the Russian far east.