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Non-deployment of attack weapons near Russia inseparable from other issues — Lavrov

Both nuclear and conventional missiles will be identified at once and interpreted as a direct threat to Russia, the Foreign Minister stressed

MOSCOW, January 13. /TASS/. The issue of non-deployment of attack weapons near Russia’s borders must not be considered in the dialogue with the West separately from the main demand - NATO’s non-expansion to the east, because otherwise it would hardly be of any importance, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Channel One’s Great Game program on Thursday.

He recalled the initiative for a moratorium on the deployment of intermediate and shorter-range missiles, which Russian President Vladimir Putin put forward two years ago. The Russian leader then suggested coordinating verification measures, which the Russian Defense Ministry explained later.

"The idea looked like this: you are welcome to come to Kaliningrad to examine the Iskander systems stationed there to see for yourselves at last, the way you were offered many times, that they do not fall under the restrictions established under the intermediate and shorter-range missiles treaty. In exchange, we will visit US missile defense bases in Romania and Poland to see what the Mk-41 launchers are like. These launchers, produced by Lockheed Martin, are advertised on the company’s website as dual-purpose systems, meant for missile defense and for launching cruise missiles. That’s what was proposed. NATO then told us that it was no good. French President Emmanuel Macron was the only one who expressed the readiness to discuss this, but not one on one with Russia. And Jens Stoltenberg said that it was a bad idea."

"But nobody mentioned that the initiative implied verification from the outset. Now it is one of the concrete results that we would like to have on paper. They have told us that they are ready to discuss a new regime for the intermediate and shorter-range missiles. There are nuances, though: they are prepared to pledge not to have nuclear-armed missiles, but remain undecided as far as non-nuclear ones are concerned. It makes no difference, though. Both nuclear and conventional missiles will be identified at once and interpreted as a direct threat to Russia," he said.

"This issue must be discussed, but they have removed one element from our proposals. In our papers we put forward an initiative no attack weapons should be deployed near our borders. They have extracted only this element. If it is to be discussed (in principle, such a discussion is useful) separately from our main demand - NATO’s non-expansion to the east - it will hardly be of any significance."