Allies to meet over US plan to leave nuclear missile treaty

U.S. President Donald Trump with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the arrivals of heads of state and government at the opening of the NATO summit at the organization's headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, July 11, 2018.


By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 24, 2018

STUTTGART, Germany — NATO ambassadors will meet later this week to discuss the U.S. plan to leave a key nuclear treaty with Russia, a move that has met with mixed reactions from members of the 29-nation military pact.

On Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the U.S. decision to quit the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was understandable in light of Russia’s violations of the pact.

“The problem is no treaty can be effective and work if it is only accepted by one part,” Stoltenberg said.

At issue is Russia’s new 9M729 ground-launched missile, which the U.S. says violates the ban on all ground-launched intermediate-range cruise and ballistic missiles. Moscow, however, has denied the accusations. So far, the U.S. has not provided any public documentation of the violations or shown where the weapons systems are deployed.

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. will leave the INF treaty after years of complaints about Russian violations that date back to the Obama administration.

“We’ll have to develop those weapons unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say, ‘let’s really get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons,’” Trump said. “But if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it, and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable.”

China is not a signatory of the treaty.

Trump’s decision has concerned some allies. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was worried about unforeseen consequences if “an important pillar of our European security architecture” was eliminated.

“We have often urged Russia to address serious allegations that it is violating the agreement. We now urge the U.S. to consider the possible consequences,” Maas said in a statement following Trump’s Saturday announcement.

British Foreign Minster Gavin Williamson said the United Kingdom backs Trump’s decision.

Stoltenberg didn’t explicitly endorse Washington’s intention to pull out of the treaty, but he offered no objections.

“We also understand this is not something that can go on,” Stoltenberg said of Russia’s alleged INF violations.

Twitter: @john_vandiver