Berlin – German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has expressed concern over Russian nuclear weapons in proximity to European countries, in remarks published on Thursday by the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland media group.
“Despite all the appeals and offers of dialogue, Russia is refusing to destroy systems banned under the treaties and has stationed the most modern nuclear weapons in our neighbourhood,” Maas wrote.
He was referring to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a cornerstone of post-Cold War security, which is set to expire on Friday.
“This causes us Europeans a lot of worry.
“If we do not halt the decay of the global armaments control architecture, this will have serious consequences – for our security and for global peace,” he said.
Maas added that the aim of a world without nuclear weapons was increasingly receding.
“And when we wake up tomorrow, one of the most successful disarmament treaties of all time will be history,” he added.
The U.S announced its withdrawal in February from the treaty, which was signed in 1987 and ratified the following year.
NATO countries backed the decision on the grounds that Russia had infringed its provisions for years with the SSC-8 medium-range missile system.
However, Russia has rejected that accusation.
Russia, however, says it is ready to hold consultations with the U.S. about the treaty at diplomatic and military levels, the state-run TASS news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Jan. 7
“We are ready for dialogue if the U.S. will be ready for this.
“If it happens tomorrow, then we are ready tomorrow. But the dialogue should be on the basis of equality of rights,” Ryabkov told reporters in New Delhi, TASS reported.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website at the time that it “can’t destroy the 9M729 (missile) complexes, which Washington had declared in violation of the treaty without any reason.”
Russia’s controversial 9M729 missile
Ten days later, the U.S. rejected the Russian offer to save a landmark treaty that keeps nuclear missiles out of Europe because it could not be properly verified, setting the stage for Washington to withdraw from the pact.
After a meeting in Geneva between Russian and U.S. officials, U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson said that Moscow was refusing to allow proper inspection of a new Russian missile system that Washington says breaks the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).
The INF treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ratified by the U.S. Senate, eliminated the medium-range missile arsenals of the world’s two biggest nuclear powers and reduced their ability to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.
The treaty bans land-based missiles with a range between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.