Wed, 17 Jul 2019

Russia has held an elaborate presentation to amplify its claim that a new missile at the center of a dispute with the United States does not violate a key Cold War-era arms pact, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Foreign military attaches were invited to the Defense Ministry's January 23 event in Moscow, the latest salvo in a series of accusations between Russia and the United States over the treaty.

President Donald Trump announced in October that the United States would pull out of the pact, citing an alleged Russian violation and concerns that Washington is restricted by the bilateral treaty while nuclear-armed countries such as China are not.

On December 4, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Moscow that the United States would begin its withdrawal from the pact if Russia did not come into compliance within 60 days.

The United States says that Russia's 9M729 Novator cruise missile violates the treaty, which prohibits the two countries from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

Russia denies it is in breach. At the conference in Moscow, Lieutenant General Mikhail Matveyevsky, the chief of the military's missile and artillery forces, said the 9M729 -- also known as the SSC-8 -- had a maximum range of 480 kilometers.

'The distance was confirmed during strategic-command-and-staff exercises' in 2017, he said.

'Russia has observed and continues to strictly observe the points of the treaty, and does not allow any violations,' Matveyevsky said.

Lieutenant General Mikhail Matveyevsky speaks at the Patriot Expocenter near Moscow on January 23.

Moscow has said it is ready to work with Washington to save the agreement. But it has given no indication that it might abandon its claim that the 9M729 is compliant, and U.S. officials have suggested such remarks have not been made in good faith.

Talks in Geneva earlier last week failed to end the dispute, and a U.S. diplomat said on January 21 that there is 'only one path forward' for Moscow to return to compliance: to 'verifiably destroy all SSC-8 missiles, launchers, and associated equipment.'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to develop nuclear missiles banned under the INF treaty if the United States does so. He said in December that he was open to the idea of other countries joining the deal or to talks on a new agreement.

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and TASS RFE/RL

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Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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