RFE/RL: Lavrov says Moscow preparing answers to U.S. nuclear-treaty concerns
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Moscow was drafting responses to a list of questions recently presented by the United States concerning a key Cold War-era arms control treaty.
Lavrov made the comments on October 28, days after President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, repeating longstanding U.S. accusations that Moscow had violated the agreement, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.
The 1987 accord prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,000 kilometers.
"Just a week ago, a couple of days before they announced their intention to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Americans via their embassy in Moscow sent the Russian Foreign Ministry an extensive list of questions which are a concern to them," Lavrov said in an interview aired on Russian television.
"It is better to come to terms with Russia on an equal basis and it is not necessary to be friends," the Russian minister also said. "We are not forcing a friendship."
U.S. threats to withdraw from the INF Treaty came amid persistent tension between the West and Moscow over issues including Russia's seizure of Crimea in March 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged election meddling in the United States and Europe, and the poisoning of a Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain in March.
Trump said on October 22 that he was pulling out of the 1987 treaty because Russia has been violating it since at least 2014 and because it does not apply to China, which has been developing the kind of short and intermediate-range missiles eliminated by Russia and the United States under the treaty.
START Under Threat?
In the wake of U.S. threats to withdraw from the INF Treaty, Lavrov said that the "fate of the New START Treaty is unclear."
The New START Treaty limits strategic nuclear weapons. It was signed in 2010 and is due to expire in 2021, although the two sides could agree to extend it for another five years.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Washington's withdrawal from the INF Treaty could lead to a new "arms race."
Meanwhile, European members of NATO have urged Washington to try to bring Russia back into compliance with the nuclear arms control agreement rather than quitting it, diplomats say.
Speaking on October 28, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the United States was in consultation with its European allies on the INF Treaty.
When asked whether he could rule out placing intermediate-range missiles on the ground if Washington left the INF Treaty, Mattis told reporters travelling with him to Prague, "I never rule things out like that, I also don't rule it in."
"There are a number of ways for us to respond [to the alleged Russian violation], it does not have to be symmetric and it'll be in close consultation with allies," he also said.