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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Russia: US comments on possible destruction of Russian warheads are dangerous

Washington prepared to consider military strike, says US ambassador to Nato

US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison briefs the media ahead of a Nato defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels. Reuters
US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison briefs the media ahead of a Nato defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels. Reuters

Russia said on Wednesday it regards as dangerous a statement by Washington's envoy to Nato who said Moscow must halt its covert development of a banned cruise missile system or the US would seek to destroy it before it becomes operational.

The US ambassador to Nato, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said on Tuesday Washington was still committed to a diplomatic solution but remained prepared to consider a military strike if Russian development of the medium-range system continued.

“At that point, we would be looking at the capability to take out a (Russian) missile that could hit any of our countries,” Ms Hutchison told a news conference.

“Counter measures (by the US) would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty,” she added, referring to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that bans medium-range missiles capable of hitting Europe or Alaska. “They are on notice,” she added.

"It seems that people who make such statements do not realise the level of their responsibility and the danger of aggressive rhetoric," TASS news agency quoted Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying.

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In the past, the Russian ministry has said it is ready for talks with the US to try to preserve the treaty and would comply with its obligations if the United States did.

Ms Hutchison tweeted on Tuesday saying she did not mean to suggest the US would strike Russia preemptively. "Russia must return to INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty compliance or we will need to match its capabilities to protect US & NATO interests. The current situation, with Russia in blatant violation, is untenable," she wrote. The US accusations are likely to further strain relations between Moscow and the West that are at a low over Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea, its bombing campaign in Syria and accusations of meddling in Western elections.

“We have been trying to send a message to Russia for several years that we know they are violating the treaty; we have shown Russia the evidence that we have that they are violating the treaty,” Hutchison said.

“We are laying down the markers so that our allies will help us bring Russia to the table,” she added.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said he would discuss the issue with his NATO counterparts at a scheduled two-day meeting in Brussels from Wednesday.

“I cannot forecast where it will go, it is a decision for the president, but I can tell you that both on Capitol Hill and in State Department, there is a lot of concern about this situation and I’ll return with the advice of our allies and engage in that discussion to determine the way ahead,” he told reporters in Paris.