Russian missiles pose new threat to Europe
The US and Germany have criticised Russia over new missile deployments that posed a threat to Nato and Europe.
“The Russians have deployed a land-based cruise missile that violates the spirit and intent of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces [INF] treaty,” Paul Selva, a senior US general who advises the White House, told a House committee in Washington on Wednesday (8 March), referring to a Cold War-era agreement.
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“The system … presents a risk to most of our facilities in Europe and we believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to Nato and to facilities within the Nato area of responsibility,” he added.
“They do not intend to return to [INF] compliance,” he said.
State department spokesman Mark Toner told press the same day: “We do believe they’re in violation [of INF].”
“We have conveyed that [to Russia] … they’re quite clear that - of our concerns,” he said.
The German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, also on Wednesday raised the alarm on Russia’s deployment of Iskander ballistic missiles in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
"If Iskander missiles were stationed in Kaliningrad permanently, that would be a cause for great concern and a blow to European security," he told Russia’s state-run Interfax news agency.
Russia installed the rockets, which could hit Berlin, during a military drill in the exclave last year.
Kaliningrad also hosts 25,000 Russian soldiers, anti-air and anti-ship missiles that restrict Nato movements in the Baltic region, and two nuclear-capable warships.
Stephen W. Wilson, the deputy-chief of the US air force, told the House hearing that “in terms of nuclear capabilities, Russia is our only peer, and will likely remain so in the coming decades”.
“Russia’s continued aggression and provocations, its demonstrated willingness to violate the sovereignty of its neighbours, and its disregard for its international commitments, poses a clear threat to global stability,” he added.
Robert Kehler, a retired US air force general, the same day told a Senate committee that he did not believe there was a threat of war, but said that Russia’s nuclear sabre-rattling caused concern.
“I believe the likelihood of a massive surprise nuclear attack is low today,” he said.
“I am troubled by statements from Russia and elsewhere that describe the possible limited use of nuclear weapons in regional conflicts,” he added.
Senior diplomats from Poland and the Baltic states gave US senators equally gloomy assessments of Russia’s aggressive behaviour in Europe earlier this week.
Adrian Bradshaw, a UK general who is Nato’s second-in-command in Europe, told British media last week that the West needed a “grand strategy” to deter Russia.
“The threat from Russia is that through opportunism and mistakes and a lack of clarity regarding our deterrence we find ourselves sliding into an unwanted conflict which has existential implications,” he said.
Russia has said that Nato’s deployment of a rapid reaction force of some 5,000 soldiers in the Baltic region posed a threat to its security.
But Gabriel dismissed that claim in his Interfax interview, saying the Nato force was tiny compared to Russia’s military build-up in the region.
“Germany and other Nato states were not the first to go into the Baltic area,” he said.