August 2, 2019 / 10:07 AM / 15 days ago

NATO says ready with measured response to Russia missile breach

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO has agreed on ways to deter Russia from launching a new medium-range missile capable of a nuclear strike on Europe, the alliance said on Friday, saying its response would be measured and only involve conventional weapons.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gives a news conference on the day the United States is set to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Force Treaty (INF), in Brussels, Belgium, August 2, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Walschaerts

The United States formally withdrew from a Cold War-era nuclear missile pact with Russia on Friday after determining that Moscow was in violation of the treaty and had no plans to come into compliance with it.

“Russia bears sole responsibility for the demise of the treaty,” the NATO allies said, referring to the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) that kept nuclear weapons out of Europe and avoided short-notice attacks.

The U.S.-led alliance says Russia has breached the terms of the 1987 treaty, which bans land-based, medium-range missiles in Europe, and has developed the nuclear-capable Novator 9M729, which is also known as the SSC-8.

Russia denies any such violations.

“NATO will respond in a measured and responsible way to the significant risks posed by the Russian 9M729 missile ... We have agreed a balanced, coordinated and defensive package of measures,” they said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference there would be “no rash moves” by the alliance and “would not mirror what Russia does.”

“We don’t want a new arms race,” Stoltenberg said.

Washington is only considering conventional, not nuclear weapons, in any possible response, NATO diplomats say. Stoltenberg listed military exercises, surveillance and air and missile defences as ways to deter Moscow.

NATO is also considering more flights over Europe by U.S. warplanes capable of carrying nuclear warheads, more military training and the repositioning of U.S. sea-based missiles, alliance diplomats say.

Within the next few weeks, the United States is expected to test a ground-launched cruise missile. In November, the Pentagon will aim to test an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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