Moscow on Wednesday dismissed US claims that Russia is violating a major Cold War treaty limiting mid-range nuclear arms, from which Washington is planning to withdraw. "Groundless accusations are again being repeated," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Russia in "material breach" of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov meanwhile said facts had been distorted "in order to camouflage the true goal of the US withdrawing from the treaty". Pompeo said during a meeting with fellow NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday that the US would withdraw from the deal within 60 days if Moscow does not dismantle missiles that Washington says violate it.
NATO said it was now "up to Russia" to save the treaty. In October, President Donald Trump sparked global concern by declaring the United States would pull out of the treaty and build up America's nuclear stockpile "until people come to their senses". But on Monday, the US leader said he wants talks with his Chinese and Russian counterparts Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin "to head off a major and uncontrollable Arms Race". Signed in 1987 by then US president Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, the INF resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals. But it was a bilateral treaty between the US and the then Soviet Union, so it puts no restrictions on other major military actors like China.
Pompeo on Tuesday said there was no reason why the US "should continue to cede this crucial military advantage" to rival powers. The Trump administration has complained of Moscow's deployment of Novator 9M729 missiles, which Washington says fall under the treaty's ban on missiles that can travel distances of between 310 and 3,400 miles (500 and 5,500 kilometres). US-Russia ties are under deep strain over accusations Moscow meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. The two states are also at odds over Russian support for Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria's civil war, and the conflict in Ukraine.