NATO defense ministers will hold talks on Wednesday over their next move if Russia doesn't destroy a new missile system that could allow for short-notice nuclear attacks throughout Europe, which the United States has said violates the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), according to Reuters.
"We call on Russia to take the responsible path, but we have seen no indication that Russia intends to do so," said Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at a news conference, adding "We will need to respond."
While he declined to go into further detail, diplomats have said their defense ministers will consider allowing more flights over Europe by nuclear-capable US warplanes, as well as more military training and the strategic repositioning of US sea-based missiles.
The United States and its NATO allies want Russia to destroy its 9M729/SSC-8 nuclear-capable cruise missile system, which Moscow has so far refused to do. It denies any violations of the INF treaty, accusing Washington of seeking an arms race.
Without a deal, the United States has said it will withdraw from the INF treaty on Aug. 2, removing constraints on its own ability to develop nuclear-capable, medium-range missiles.
The dispute has deepened a fissure in East-West ties that severely deteriorated after Russia’s seizure of Crimea and its involvement in Syria. -Reuters
On Monday, Russia responded - warning of an ongoing standoff comparable to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis if the United States deploys land-based missile systems near Russian borders. Stoltenberg said there were no such plans according to the report.
NATO Amabassador to the United States, Kay Bailey Hutchison, told reporters that the Trump administration would only consider conventional, not nuclear weapons as the only possible response.
"All options are on the table but we are looking at conventional systems, that’s important for our European allies to know," she said.
EU allies are also concerned about an escalation of capabilities in the region, similar to what occurred in the 1980s, and that competition between the Kremlin and the White House would put Europe at great risk.
The INF treaty banning land-based missiles with a range between 300 - 3,400 miles was signed by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It was ratified in the US Senate, after which the medium-range arsenals of both countries downgraded their ability to launch short-notice nuclear strikes.