WASHINGTON, December 7. /TASS/. A senior US diplomat on Thursday gave no direct answer to a question on whether her country has launched a project to create new ground-based cruise missiles in breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
During a conference call with reporters on Washington’s possible withdrawal from the INF Treaty under the pretext of Russia’s alleged violations, US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson was asked to comment on a leaked memo by US National Security Advisor John Bolton. The document suggests that the United States wants to develop and deploy ground-based missiles at the earliest possible date.
"The legal effective suspension for us means that we're no longer obligated to implement the treaty's provisions," she said. "So the treaty remains in force during this period of suspension, so for the 60 day period, we remain in force."
"But again, when that next step is made, then we would not be obligated by that, so would be able to continue the efforts. But next steps on the funding, building, and deploying of those systems, I would refer to my DoD partners, but I have all faith and confidence that they will do whatever it takes to defend our security and prosperity. But again, reiterate that we are sole adhering to our treaty's provisions under this time," the US official added.
INF Treaty issue
Back in July 2014, Washington accused Moscow for the first time of violating the INF Treaty. Since then, the US has repeated this claim more than once.
Russia strongly dismissed the accusations and struck back at the US with counterclaims, saying the United States also has been blatantly violating the treaty by deploying at its bases in Europe multi-purpose Mk-41 vertical launching systems, which can also be used to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles. Besides, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen. Alexander Fomin said in mid-August that Washington had made a decision earlier this year to finance a project to build mobile launching systems for land-based cruise missiles with the range of 500-5,500 km, which also fall under the treaty’s limits.
On December 4, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said after the meeting of NATO defense ministers that his country would stop honoring its commitments under the treaty, if Russia fails to return to compliance with that accord within 60 days. Russian President Vladimir Putin replied on December 5 that Washington has failed to present any evidence of Russia’s non-compliance. He added that although Moscow would like to have the treaty preserved, it would adequately respond if the US chooses to terminate it unilaterally.