EU urges US, Russia talks to ‘preserve’ nuclear treaty

Visitors look at Russian tactical ballistic missile OTR-21 Tochka-U (L), 122mm multiple rocket launcher BM-21 Grad (2_L), tactical ballistic missile 9K720 Iskander-M (C) and 300mm multiple rocket launcher BM-30 Smerch (R) during a military exhibition marking the Tank's Day on a tank range in Luga, outside St. Petersburg, Russia, 9 September 2017. [Anatoly Maltsev/EPA/EFE]

The European Commission on Monday (22 October) urged the United States and Russia to pursue talks to preserve a nuclear weapons treaty after President Donald Trump said Washington was withdrawing from the deal.

Asked by EURACTIV to comment Trump’s statement, the Commission stressed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was a cornerstone of European defence for the last three decades.

Trump says US to exit landmark nuclear arms pact, Russia threatens retaliation

President Donald Trump said Washington would withdraw from a landmark Cold War-era treaty that eliminated nuclear missiles from Europe because Russia was violating the pact, triggering a warning of retaliatory measures from Moscow.

“The US and the Russian federation need to remain in a constructive dialogue to preserve this treaty and ensure it is fully and verifiably implemented,” spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters.

She said the treaty was important for both European and global security.

“The treaty for Intermediate-Range Forces in Europe contributed to the end of the Cold War, to the end of the nuclear arms race and is one of the cornerstones of European security architecture since it entered force 30 years ago,” she added.

“And thanks to this treaty almost 3,000 missiles with nuclear and conventional warheads have been removed and verifiably destroyed,” Kocijancic said.

“It is also an important contribution to disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” she said.

The treaty banning intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles was signed in 1987 by then US president Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader.

Gorbachev on Sunday said that “dropping these agreements […] shows a lack of
wisdom” and was a “mistake”.

The Trump administration has complained of Moscow’s deployment of Novator  9M729 missiles, which Washington says fall under the treaty’s ban on missiles that can travel distances of between 310 and 3,400 miles (500 and 5,500 kilometres).

When asked if the EU share its US ally’s position that Russia should be blamed for the lapse of the treaty, Kocijancic renewed the call for dialogue.

“We of course expect the Russian federation to address the concerns regarding its compliance with the treaty in a substantial and transparent way,” she said.

NATO members in theory should be supportive of the US position. However, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that for 30 years the treaty had been a pillar of Europe’s security architecture. “We now urge the United States to consider the possible consequences,” of quitting the pact, Maas said on Sunday.

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