US NATO envoy warns Russian Federation to halt new missile development

U.S. ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison  DPA  TASS

"We have shown Russian Federation the evidence that we have, that they are violating the treaty", Hutchison said from Brussels on the sidelines of a NATO Defence Ministerial meeting. "The American people? Do ordinary Americans know that they are paying out of their pockets for so-called diplomats who behave so aggressively and destructively?" "The current situation, with (Russia) in blatant violation, is untenable", Hutchinson wrote on Twitter.

"We are asking our allies for their suggestions on a way forward that would bring Russian Federation into compliance, because that is our goal: Russian Federation in compliance, " she said, comments that echoed past statements in the Obama and Trump administrations.

Hutchison was referring to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which bans the use of all nuclear and conventional missiles, as well as their launchers, that have ranges of between 500km and 5,500km.

Stoltenberg declined to say where the missile system could be deployed, citing intelligence concerns.

"The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) issued a statement in December underscoring the so-called INF Treaty's "crucial" role in ensuring security for 30 years by "'removing an entire class of USA and Russian weapons" - ground-launched intermediate-range missiles - and calling on Russia to address "serious concerns" about a missile system identified by NATO members.

Rather, the message to Russian Federation is that "we know they have violated the treaty and we are beginning the research capabilities that are allowed by the treaty to deter a medium-range ballistic missile".

US Defense Secretary James Mattis said in February that the Pentagon was working on new low-yield nuclear weapons to respond to the Russian move in a bid to force them back into compliance with the INF. The US threatened that any missiles of this range, created to target nearby regions, will be taken out.

"At that point, we would be looking at the capability to take out a (Russian) missile that could hit any of our countries", Ms Hutchison told a news conference.

Then- Pacific Command chief - and now Ambassador to South Korea - Adm. Harry Harris told Congress earlier this year that the treaty is "self-limiting", particularly since "over 90 percent of China's ground-based missiles would violate the treaty".

A North Atlantic Treaty Organisation official insisted "the ball on this issue is in Russia's court", saying the alliance expected "credible answers" about the missile system. "She just didn't mean it", said Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control scholar at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Russia has long feared that US missile shields could be used covertly to preemptively target the man who controls the Russian nuclear arsenal - Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Russia has not provided any credible answers on this new missile" he added.

Or could it be a new variant of the sea-launched Kalibr land attack missile that has been used by the Russian navy against targets in Syria?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference in Brussels on October 2. On the same topic, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last month said that his country is ready to discuss to discuss what the U.S. considers as violation of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF). That missile has now moved beyond the test phase and has a "fully operational unit", the Times cited USA officials as having said.