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US pursuing 'economic and military' options after Russia arms treaty dispute

US pursuing 'economic and military' options after Russia arms treaty dispute
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The United States is pursuing economic and military measures to compel Russia back into compliance with a landmark arms treaty, the State Department said Friday, while Russia said it’s ready to talk with the United States about saving the accord.

Friday’s statements from the State Department and the Russian Foreign Ministry marked the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a landmark agreement credited with helping end the Cold War.

“While the United States will continue to pursue a diplomatic solution, we are now pursuing economic and military measures intended to induce the Russian Federation to return to compliance,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

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“This includes a review of military concepts and options, including options for conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems, which would enable the United States to defend ourselves and our allies, should the Russian Federation not return to compliance. This step will not violate our INF Treaty obligations.”

The statement is the first public acknowledgement that the United States is researching a missile that would violate the treaty, although the research itself is not a violation. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed officials, first reported that research and development had started.

The United States has repeatedly accused Russia of violating the treaty, which bans ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. 

The United States alleges, among other violations, that Russia has deployed a nuclear-tipped cruise missile.

Russia insists that it has not violated the treaty and that the United States is the country out of compliance, charges it repeated Friday.

“Throughout the three decades, the Russian Federation has strictly adhered to the INF Treaty and observed it faithfully,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday. “We have been insisting on the United States to do the same as the U.S. seems to have interpreted the contractual obligation rather freely in those cases when the treaty hindered developing the arms important to the U.S. At the same time, the United States continues to bring forward unfounded accusations of Russia’s breaching the treaty.”

The ministry added that Russia is ready for “non-politicized” talks.

“We are ready to engage in a non-politicized, professional dialogue with the United States regarding the issues around the treaty,” it said. “However, attempts to communicate with us in the language of ultimatums or to put military and political pressure on Russia through sanctions (which has been discussed with great excitement in Washington) are unacceptable.”

In Friday’s statement, Nauert said the United States has tried to engage Russia on the issue but that so far it has “refused to discuss the violation in any meaningful way.”

The United States will stop its research, she added, if Russia goes back into compliance with the treaty. 

“We are also prepared to cease such research and development activities if the Russian Federation returns to full and verifiable compliance with its INF Treaty obligations,” Nauert said.

“The United States does and will continue to abide by its INF Treaty obligations. We call on the Russian Federation to take concrete steps to return to compliance, preserve the INF Treaty, and restore confidence in the role of arms control to manage strategic stability.”