UNITED NATIONS — Russia and the United States blamed each other Thursday for abandoning a landmark arms control agreement on missiles, with Moscow warning of a new arms race and the Trump administration demanding details of a recent mysterious explosion that killed five Russian nuclear engineers.
Russia called a U.N. Security Council meeting on the matter following the U.S. test of a missile banned by the 1987 intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which both countries withdrew from Aug. 2.
Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, criticized what he called American “hypocrisy,” saying the U.S. “consistently and deliberately violated the INF treaty for some time.” He said the missile test on Aug. 18, so soon after the treaty’s expiration, proved it.
Acting U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen countered that Russia decided more than a decade ago to break its INF treaty obligations and has deployed multiple battalions of ground-launched cruise missiles “with the ability to strike critical European targets.”
The council meeting put on vivid display the deep distrust between the two nuclear powers, and the anxiety of other nations about an escalating arms race including with China.
America’s NATO allies joined Cohen in blaming Russia for what France’s deputy ambassador, Anne Gueguen, called “the death of the treaty.”
Britain’s political coordinator Stephen Hickey, said Russia’s actions “are in line with a pattern of aggression that represents a clear threat to international peace and security” and undermine its claim “that it is a responsible international partner.”
Gueguen warned that “it would be a dangerous step backward to engage in a new arms race.”
Russia’s envoy directed key remarks to NATO’s European council members — Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland. Polyansky asked whether they understand that by supporting the U.S. “step by step, you are returning to a historic situation when missiles were targeting European cities from different sites.”
“From our part, we would not be the first to make use of such measures,” he added. “However, considering that our American colleagues are clearly rubbing their hands and want to flex their muscles, then it’s possible that that situation ... could happen quite soon.”
Cohen told the council that perhaps a better use of its time would be to ask Russia “to address the threats it poses to international peace and security,” including where its ground-launched cruise missiles are, and how many it’s deployed.
He said Russia is also pursuing “novel strategic nuclear weapons.”