Russia Says It Will Uphold Nuclear Pact Even If U.S. Suspends It

(Bloomberg) -- Russia showed foreign envoys a missile that’s at the center of a dispute with the U.S. over a landmark nuclear treaty, as Moscow mounted a diplomatic offensive against Washington’s plans to withdraw from the pact.

U.S. demands for the elimination of the 9M729 missile are “unacceptable,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in a televised briefing Wednesday for foreign diplomats and news media. The U.S. accuses Russia of breaching the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by deploying the missile, which Moscow denies.

Russia Says It Will Uphold Nuclear Pact Even If U.S. Suspends It

Russia will continue to abide by the terms of the INF treaty even if the U.S. gives six months’ notice on Feb. 2 of its intention to withdraw, Ryabkov said at the briefing by the Russian foreign and defense ministries. The pact will remain in force during this period, while the U.S. decision is “dubious from a legal point of view” since Russia isn’t in violation of the treaty, he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo set a 60-day deadline in December for Russia to stop alleged “cheating on their nuclear obligations” under the 1987 treaty, which bans deployment of ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 kilometers (310 miles) to 5,500 kilometers. Otherwise, the U.S. would begin to carry out President Donald Trump’s threat to withdraw from the pact, he said.

Russia says the disputed missile has a range of 480 kilometers. It has warned that countries hosting U.S. missiles will be targeted if Washington goes ahead with the pullout from the INF treaty.

“You as military professionals must understand that the target for Russian retaliation won’t be U.S. territory but the countries where the intermediate-range missiles are deployed,” General Staff chief Valery Gerasimov told foreign military attaches last month.

The U.S. has said it has no plans to deploy land-based nuclear missiles in Europe once it pulls out of the treaty.

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