US pulls out of cold war-era INF treaty after Moscows secret deployment of cruise missiles
A key international nuclear disarmament treaty has formally collapsed amid mutual recriminations between the west and Russia, and with Nato pledging to boost Europes military defences.
The alliances secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said Nato countries were facing a threat from previously banned Russian land-based cruise missiles that could reach EU cities, with only minutes of warning time.
The 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, banned all surface-to-surface missiles with a range of between 500km and 5,500km, effectively removing them from Europe.
But the treaty lapsed on Friday after Donald Trumps administration accused Russia of developing a land-based nuclear-capable cruise missile that the US and its Nato allies say violates the INF range restrictions.
Stoltenberg said the Russian missiles the 9M729, or by its Nato designation the SSC-8 were mobile capable and hard to detect. As well as being able to strike within Europe, they lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.
In response, Russias foreign ministry said the deal had been terminated at the initiative of the US. Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, urged the US to implement a moratorium on missile deployments.
Stoltenberg said the moratorium proposal was not a credible offer because Russia has deployed the disputed missiles for several years, while a string of alliance members joined the Nato leader in blaming Russia.