Europe 'at gunpoint' as US decides to quit missile treaty
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Europe 'at gunpoint' as US decides to quit missile treaty

"We all regret that in the coming days this decision will most likely be implemented," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday. "A decision to move to break the treaty was made in Washington a long time ago."  US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to make an announcement on the fate of the treaty at 1300 GMT Friday. Peskov said Moscow expects to receive "some sort of notice" from Washington about its withdrawal.  President Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia will be forced to respond if the US withdraws from the treaty. He has said Russia will develop missiles currently banned under the agreement if Washington makes good on its threats. Russian and US officials met to address the issue on the sidelines of a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in Beijing on Thursday but made no progress. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said military commanders would begin preparing for "a world without an INF treaty" but insisted the alliance was still committed to arms reduction. US President Donald Trump announced last year that Washington would withdraw from the treaty, which was signed toward the end of the Cold War in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Trump has cited Russia’s “violations” of the deal as the reason behind the plan to exit the INF.  Russia's top negotiator on the treaty, deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov, in an interview broadcast Friday insisted Moscow was in compliance. "We believe that the treaty is needed. It serves the interests of our security and European security," Ryabkov said. "It would be extremely irresponsible to undermine it with unilateral steps."  The European Union has formerly called for the full implementation of the treaty, with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini pleading for the treaty to be saved. She warned that Europe did not want to become a battlefield for global powers once again as it was during the Cold War. Director of a Russian think tank Ivan Konovalov said Washington “uses [Russia] as a pretext to withdraw from the agreement and keep its face.” “The US does not want Russia and China to turn into the new centers of power as it threatens Washington’s global hegemony, which is already crumbling,” he said. Konovalov also warned that if the US were to deploy nuclear-capable missiles to Europe after scrapping the treaty, it would literally put the host nations at a gunpoint. Former deputy head of the Russian Air Force Aytech Bizhev also told the Russian English-language website RT that Washington “is simply putting Europe under fire.” Washington, he said, is unlikely to win anything from such a decision and that the military advantage of such a deployment would be dubious in modern times, because it would be difficult to use them for a decapitating preemptive strike. Relations between the West and Russia remain tense over the Ukrainian crisis, the conflict in Syria, and the allegations of Russian interference in the US presidential poll in 2016.

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