BRUSSELS – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization will not deploy nuclear missiles in Europe as a response to the likely end of a Cold War-era missile treaty between Russia and the United States, the Alliance’s secretary general said on Wednesday ahead of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.
Speaking to journalists as he arrived at the organization’s headquarters, Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO would have a united response to the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty – which was signed in 1987 between the then-leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the president of the US at the time, Ronald Reagan – that would rely on conventional options.
“What I can say is that our response will be united, NATO Allies will act together. It will be measured, and it will be defensive, because we don’t want a new arms race,” Stoltenberg said. “And we don’t have any intention to deploy new nuclear land-based weapons systems in Europe.”
“Then, of course, we have a wide range of other options – conventional and other options, but I will not speculate about them now, because if I start to speculate about different options, I would just add to the uncertainty,” he added. “Commenting on different options is just too early before we have concluded.”
The Norway-born leader of the Alliance accused Russia of continuously violating the INF Treaty by deploying new nuclear-capable missiles (belonging to the SSC-8 category) that he said were hard to detect, mobile and could reach European cities, “which is of great concern for all of us.”
“We will continue to call on Russia to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty,” Stoltenberg said.
The administration of US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has decided to initiate its withdrawal process from the treaty, which is set to be completed in six months’ time.
Stoltenberg said that, nevertheless, NATO’s main focus was to preserve the treaty, although it was also preparing for a future without it and with more Russian missiles.
He added that he would be meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov later this week in Munich to discuss Russia’s alleged violations of the INF Treaty.
“This is part of an ongoing dialogue with Russia which is important, especially when tensions are difficult as they are now,” Stoltenberg said.