NATO envoy: U.S. would destroy banned Russian warheads if necessary

Photo from Ukrinform

Russia must halt its covert development of a banned cruise missile system or the United States will seek to destroy it before it becomes operational, Washington’s envoy to NATO said today, Reuters reports.

The United States ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said that Washington remained committed to a diplomatic solution, but was prepared to consider a military strike if Russian development of the medium-range system continued.

“At that point, we would be looking at the capability to take out a (Russian) missile that could hit any of our countries. Counter measures (by the United States) would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty. They are on notice,” Hutchison said at a news conference.

Washington believes that Russia develops ground-launched cruise missile systems in contravention of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Moscow, however, denies these allegations.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty prohibits production, possession, testing of ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers, and production and possession of launchers of such missiles. The U.S, and Russia celebrated its 30th anniversary in Geneva in 2017.

The U.S. has recently repeatedly accused Russia of violating the treaty. It has pointed out numerous times that Moscow produces medium-range cruise missile systems, which would allow Russia to launch a quick nuclear strike on Europe.

The Russian Foreign Ministry was not immediately available for comment. In the past, it has said that it is ready for talks with the U.S. to try to preserve the treaty and would comply with its obligations if the U.S. did.

The U.S. accusations are likely to further strain relations between Moscow and the West that are at a low over Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea, its bombing campaign in Syria and accusations of Russian meddling in Western elections.

“We have been trying to send a message to Russia for several years that we know they are violating the treaty, we have shown Russia the evidence that we have that they are violating the treaty,” Hutchison said.

“We are laying down the markers, so that our allies will help us bring Russia to the table,” she added.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said that he would discuss the issue with his NATO counterparts at a scheduled two-day meeting in Brussels from tomorrow.

“I cannot forecast where it will go, it is a decision for the president, but I can tell you that both on Capitol Hill and in the State Department, there is a lot of concern about this situation, and I’ll return with the advice of our allies and engage in that discussion to determine the way ahead,” he told reporters in Paris.