Russia warns of nuclear response to NATO missile plans

14 Dec, 2021

Russia could be forced to deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles on its European territory in response to what it sees as NATO’s plans to increase the presence of atomic weapons on the continent, a top diplomat has claimed.

In an interview with RIA Novosti on Monday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov insisted that if Western nations refuse to sign a moratorium on intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) in Europe, Russia will be obliged to place the further West than is currently the case. Moscow has proposed the deal as part of a package of measures intended to defuse the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

“The absence of progress in the direction of a political-diplomatic solution to this problem will make it so that our response is military,” Ryabkov said. “That is, it will be a confrontation, the next round, the deployment of such tools from our side.”

Intermediate-range nuclear weapons were banned in Europe in 1987 as part of a treaty between American President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. In 2019, however, the US withdrew from the agreement, complaining that the Kremlin had already broken the terms by deploying a cruise missile – referred to by NATO as the ‘Screwdriver’ – in Russia’s European territory west of the Ural Mountains. Moscow has denied the allegation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for dialogue when the US pulled out of the agreement in 2019, saying, “We have repeatedly warned that the termination of the treaty on intermediate and short-range missiles [INF] means the region is now facing the possibility of these strike weapons appearing across its vast space, and a new arms race as a result.”

Russia has urged a renewal of the moratorium and has indicated that it has no trust in NATO promises regarding arms buildup in Europe unless they come in writing.

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“The NATO people’s frequent assurances that they have no plans to deploy such nuclear instruments don’t convince us at all,” Ryabkov said on Monday. “First of all, as a principle, there is no trust towards the NATO alliance,” he emphasized.

Gerhard Mangott, an Austrian expert on arms control, told Reuters that if NATO continues to refuse to negotiate a new deal, Russia will almost certainly deploy the ‘Screwdriver’ on its western border.

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