MOSCOW, Dec 13 (Reuters) – Russia said on Monday it may be forced to deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe in response to what it sees as NATO’s plans to do the same.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russia’s RIA news agency in an interview that Moscow would have to take the step if NATO refused to engage with it on preventing such an escalation.
His comments further raised the stakes in an East-West standoff in which Russia is demanding security guarantees from the West while the United States and its allies are warning Moscow to pull back from what they see as a possible invasion of Ukraine – something Ryabkov again denied was Russia’s intent.
Intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) in Europe were banned under a 1987 treaty agreed between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan in what was hailed at the time as a major easing of Cold War tensions. Washington quit the pact in 2019 after complaining for years of alleged Russian violations.
Ryabkov said there were “indirect indications” that NATO was moving closer to re-deploying INF, including its restoration last month of the 56th Artillery Command which operated nuclear-capable Pershing missiles during the Cold War.
‘COMPLETE LACK OF TRUST’
“Lack of progress towards a political and diplomatic solution to this problem will lead to our response being of a military and technical military nature,” he said.
“That is, it will be a confrontation, this will the next round, the appearance of such resources on our side. Right now there aren’t any, we have a unilateral moratorium. We call for NATO and the U.S. to join this moratorium.”
NATO says there will be no new U.S. missiles in Europe and it is ready to deter new Russian missiles with a “measured” response that would only involve conventional weapons.
But Ryabkov said Russia had a “complete lack of trust” in NATO.
“They don’t permit themselves to do anything that could somehow increase our security – they believe they can act as they need, to their advantage, and we simply have to swallow all this and deal with it. This is not going to continue.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden held two hours of talks last week on the Ukraine crisis and Moscow’s demand for what it calls legally binding security guarantees from the West.
Ryabkov said Russia would present its follow-up proposals to the United States, and possibly also to other NATO countries, in the coming weeks. Putin’s spokesman, however, said he expected the Russian ideas to be presented this week.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Alexander Marrow; writing by Mark Trevelyan; editing by Andrew Heavens)