NATO, Russia fail to agree over missile breach

The lack of progress is now bringing closer Washington’s withdrawal from the landmark arms control treaty

Photo: EPA NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

The future of a Cold War-era arms control treaty appears in jeopardy after NATO and Russia failed on Friday to resolve a dispute over a new Russian ballistic missile system that Western allies consider a threat to Europe.

At a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels, envoys from NATO’s 29 members renewed their call on Moscow’s deputy foreign minister to destroy a nuclear-capable cruise missile system before a 2 February deadline and comply with the so-called Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. After the meeting was over NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, however, announced at a news conference that Russia had shown no willingness to compromise.

“The treaty is now in real jeopardy,” he told reporters.

Without a breakthrough, the United States is set to start the six-month process of pulling out of the 1987 INF Treaty, having notified it would do so in early December and accusing Moscow of breaching it. Still, Stoltenberg and some European nations such as Germany held out hope on Friday for diplomatic progress during the six-month withdrawal process.

As a start, Russia, the US, France, Britain and China - the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - are due to meet in Beijing on 30 January to discuss arms control. Yet, it is not clear if the INF treaty would be on the agenda.

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