Russia says proposed moratorium on former INF pact missiles will end soon

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s top arms control negotiator warned the United States on Friday that Moscow would scrap a proposed moratorium on the deployment of short and medium range missiles if Washington went ahead with plans to deploy such missiles in Asia and Europe.

The United States formally withdrew from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia in 2019 after saying that Moscow was violating the accord, an accusation the Kremlin denied.

President Vladimir Putin proposed to the United States and several Western European NATO members that there should be a moratorium on the development of missiles previously banned by the INF treaty.

But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who leads on arms control talks, said the United States was “moving rapidly” towards the deployment of such missiles in both Asia and Europe.

“Accordingly, our moratorium, which was announced by the president of the Russian Federation, in the light of such developments, of course, cannot be maintained,” Ryabkov told the Kommersant newspaper.

“The Americans think it doesn’t matter,” Ryabkov said. “We believe that they are thereby delivering a new powerful blow to global stability and the security of the respective regions.”

The United States publicly blamed Russia’s development of the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, known in NATO as the SSC-8, as the reason for it leaving the INF Treaty.

In his moratorium proposal, Putin suggested Russia could agree not to deploy the missiles in its Baltic coast exclave of Kaliningrad. Since leaving the pact, the United States has tested missiles with a similar profile.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Mark Heinrich)