MOSCOW, November 26. /TASS/. The deployment of the US Aegis Ashore systems as ballistic missile defense infrastructure in Europe is a direct breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Monday.
"There is a new problematic issue, which has caused, perhaps, our greatest alarm and which we have started to raise before the United States in the bilateral format in the context of the treaty. It relates to the ground-based deployment of universal Mk-41 launchers as part of Aegis Ashore systems being deployed in Europe allegedly for solving solely anti-missile tasks," the high-ranking Russian diplomat said.
"However, contrary to the treaty, the above-mentioned launchers allow for the combat use of Tomahawk medium-range cruise missiles and other strike armaments from the ground. We consider this as a direct and flagrant breach of the INF Treaty," Ryabkov stressed.
An Aegis Ashore missile facility went into operation at the Deveselu military base in Romania in May 2016. The facility comprises the ballistic missile defense control center and mobile Mk-41 batteries with SM-3 interceptors. They are serviced by 200 US servicemen. SM-3 missile interceptor batteries are scheduled to go in operation in Poland in 2020 under the Aegis Ashore program.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has stated on many occasions that the deployment of Aegis Ashore land-based ballistic missile defense systems in Eastern Europe is Washington’s breach of its commitments under the INF Treaty.
US President Donald Trump said on October 20 that his country would quit the INF Treaty because Russia was allegedly in breach of that agreement. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov described this as a dangerous move. Washington was also criticized in Berlin and Beijing. In the meantime, London came out in support of the United States and NATO placed the responsibility for Trump’s decision on Russia, because in its opinion Moscow had apparently violated the treaty.
The INF Treaty was signed on December 8, 1987 and took effect on June 1, 1988. It outlawed deployed and non-deployed intermediate range (1,000-5,000 kilometers) and shorter range (500-1,000 kilometers) ground-based missiles.
In recent years, Washington has repeatedly alleged Russia was in breach of the agreement. Moscow emphatically dismissed the charges and countered them with its own claims over the United States’ non-compliance.