NATO concerned Russian missile system breaks Cold War pact

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrives for an EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels on Thursday, Dec. 14. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrives for an EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels on Thursday, Dec. 14. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

Brussels (AP) — NATO said Friday that it is concerned about a Russian missile system that could carry nuclear warheads, and which it says could violate a landmark Cold War arms treaty.

The U.S.-led military alliance said in a statement that “allies have identified a Russian missile system that raises serious concerns.”

It urged Russia “to address these concerns in a substantial and transparent way, and actively engage in a technical dialogue with the United States.”

NATO fears the system contravenes the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The Cold War-era pact bans an entire class of weapons — all land-based cruise missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310-3,410 miles).

The statement said a situation whereby the U.S. and other parties abided by the treaty but Russia did not “would be a grave and urgent concern.”

The concern centers on Russia’s 9M729 missiles. Washington has given evidence that Russia is developing the ground-fired cruise missile and said the system could give Moscow the ability to launch a nuclear strike in Europe with little or no notice.

Russia has claimed that U.S. missile defenses violate the pact. In the past, the Obama administration worked to convince Moscow to respect the INF treaty but seemed to make no progress.

U.S. envoy to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, described Russia’s behavior as “dangerous and destabilizing.”

“Our Allies reaffirmed that the U.S. is in compliance with our obligations under the INF Treaty and that Russia’s behavior raises serious concerns,” she said in a statement.

The NATO statement comes after a meeting between the U.S. and Russia in the Special Verification Commission this week, and is part of broader efforts to bring Moscow into compliance with the treaty.

Tensions between NATO and Russia have remained high since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, following an attack on Georgia in 2008. In response, the world’s biggest military alliance deployed thousands of troops to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland as a deterrent.