Putin Offers NATO Missile Inspections in Bid to Reboot Treaty

President Vladimir Putin offered new missile verification measures to NATO countries following the U.S. withdrawal from a Cold War-era treaty as Russia seeks to preserve the collapsing framework of nuclear arms control.

Putin offered inspections in Kaliningrad to demonstrate the enclave hasn’t stationed cruise missiles that the U.S. cited as a reason for its withdrawal last year from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, according to a Kremlin statement Monday. The checks would be conditional on reciprocal access to U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization sites in Europe.

Putin also offered not to deploy the missiles in Europe, unless the U.S. and its allies place weapons Moscow claims violate the treaty. Each side rejects the other’s allegations of breaching the agreement.

“Given the unrelenting tension along the Russia-NATO line, new threats to European security are evident,” Putin said, according to the statement. “In order to facilitate the search for compromise political and diplomatic solutions, we are ready to take further steps to minimize the negative consequences of the INF Treaty’s collapse.”

The appeal comes at a post-Cold War low in relations between Russia and the West, and as the last major missile control agreement between the two nuclear superpowers is scheduled to expire in February.

Last week, Putin offered to freeze development of new weapons in order to extend the New START treaty by a year. The U.S. welcomed the Kremlin’s offer, although key questions remain about if Moscow and Washington can come to terms, including over what types of warheads the freeze would apply to.

Warning of a new arms race, Russia has been developing a new generation of nuclear weapons as Cold War-era deals have fallen apart. However, the Trump administration wants China, with its much smaller arsenal, be a party to any new deals.

Putin said the proposed verification measures would confirm Russia hadn’t deployed its new 9M729 missile, which is called SSC-8 by NATO, in Europe.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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