U.S. Open to Russia Nuclear Treaty and Warns Turkey on Arms

Romanian foreign minister Teodor Melescanu

Stoltenberg called on Russian Federation to return to compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which the alliance insists Russian Federation violated by developing a new missile system Moscow calls Novator 9M729.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after the meeting that Russia's SSC-8 missile system is a significant risk to the security of the Alliance.

The US withdrawal will only take effect in August, giving a six-month window to save the treaty, but few expect this to happen and Stoltenberg said NATO had to prepare for a "future without the INF treaty and with more missiles".

The INF bans production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500-5,500 kilometres.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, centre, arrives for a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defense ministers at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019.

The warning came after President Donald Trump said on February 1 he would pull out of the landmark 1987 nuclear disarmament treaty, called the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, citing years of Russian violations.

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"Any steps we take will be co-ordinated, measured and defensive, and we do not intend to deploy new ground-based nuclear missiles in Europe", Mr Stoltenberg said in Brussels ahead of a meeting of alliance defence ministers.

Speaking at NATO headquarters, where defence ministers are discussing what to do if the imperiled treaty is abandoned, Stoltenberg said: "This is very serious".

Stoltenberg says North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has many options but that its response "will be measured and it will be defensive because we don't want a new arms race".

"Then of course we have a wide range of other options, conventional and other options, but I will not speculate on them now", Stoltenberg said.

"They have announced a lot of new nuclear weapons systems and they have used force against a neighbour in Ukraine". Moscow denies flouting the treaty.

European NATO members are especially keen to avoid any nuclear build-up and a repeat of the missile crisis in the 1980s. The U.S. believes Russia's new missile system could enable Moscow to launch a nuclear attack in Europe with little or no warning.

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