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NATO says Russian statements threatening to target Allies are unacceptable

NATO calls on Russia to "focus on returning to compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty," the Alliance's spokesperson said

BRUSSELS, February 20. /TASS/. The North Atlantic Alliance believes that Russian statements threatening to target NATO member states are unacceptable, a NATO spokesperson told TASS, commenting on the Russian president’s State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly.

"Russian statements threatening to target Allies are unacceptable. We call on Russia to focus on returning to compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. NATO is a defensive alliance, which stands ready to defend all members against any threat. We do not want a new arms race, and Allies have repeatedly called on Russia to verifiably destroy its intermediate-range missiles," the spokesperson said.

"The Alliance is assessing the consequences of Russia’s breach of the INF Treaty. As the NATO Secretary General has made clear, any response would be united and measured, and NATO has no intention of deploying new land-based nuclear weapons in Europe," the NATO spokesperson noted.

"Russian claims against NATO’s missile defense system are a blatant attempt to distract attention from its breach of the INF Treaty. These claims are long-standing and unfounded. As we have repeatedly made clear, the Alliance’s missile defense is purely defensive. The Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland are fully compliant with the INF Treaty," the spokesperson added.

INF Treaty issue

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed by the Soviet Union and the United States on December 8, 1987, took effect on June 1, 1988. It applies to deployed and non-deployed ground-based missiles of intermediate range (1,000-5,000 kilometers) and shorter range (500-1,000 kilometers). Washington on many occasions had accused Russia of violating the accord, but Moscow vehemently dismissed all accusations and, in its turn, expressed grievances over Washington’s non-compliance.

On February 1, US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the suspension of Washington’s obligations under the INF starting February 2. Washington is determined to withdraw from the treaty in six months unless Russia returns to "real and verifiable" compliance.

On February 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow was also suspending the agreement. He handed down instructions to refrain from initiating talks with Washington on the issue and stressed that the US needed to show willingness for an equal and substantive dialogue.

Putin said in his State of the Nation address on February 20 that "Russia will have to develop and deploy weapons that can be used not only against areas from which a direct threat will come but also against territories where decision-making centers are located." He also stressed that the US had blatantly ignored the INF Treaty by deploying missile launchers to Romania and Poland.

"The US first started developing and using intermediate range missiles it deceitfully called target missiles. Then it began to deploy the Mk-41 universal launchers to Europe, which are capable of launching Tomahawk intermediate range cruise missiles for combat purposes," Putin pointed out, adding that "by doing all this, the United States blatantly ignored Articles 4 and 6 of the INF Treaty."

The Russian leader noted that under Article 4, Paragraph 1, of the Treaty, "each Party shall eliminate all its intermediate-range missiles and launchers of such missiles so that no such missiles, launchers, support structures or support equipment shall be possessed by either Party." At the same time, Article 6, Paragraph 1, says that "upon entry into force of this Treaty and thereafter, neither Party shall produce or flight-test any intermediate-range missiles or produce any stages of such missiles or any launchers of such missiles or produce, flight-test or launch any shorter-range missiles or produce any stages of such missiles or any launchers of such missiles."

"By launching intermediate-range target missiles and deploying launchers capable of using Tomahawk cruise missiles to Romania and Poland, the US openly and flagrantly violated these requirements of the Treaty," Putin said.