Russia appeals to Europeans to heed US INF exit, warns of new arms race

Dmitry Polyanskiy (2-R), Russia's acting permanent representative to the United Nations, speaks during the UN Security Council meeting in New York, US, August 22, 2019. (Photo: IC)

UNITED NATIONS - Russia's deputy UN envoy on Thursday appealed to European countries to heed the United States' recent withdrawal from a Cold War arms control treaty and warned of a possible new arms race.

At a Security Council meeting, Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia's acting permanent representative to the United Nations, called on the Europeans to act to prevent the deployment of US intermediate-range missiles on their continent.

After exiting from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on Aug. 2, the United States recently conducted a flight test of a ground-launched cruise missile, which the treaty would have prohibited.

Recalling a failed push by Russia at the United Nations to support the INF Treaty last year, Polyanskiy said: "Are you (European member states) happy today that in December you preferred to press the red button? Do you really not understand that you are returning to a situation where missiles are targeting European cities from different sides?"

He warned that the demise of the INF Treaty would not just undermine parts of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, but would also lead to a new arms race.

Addressing the Europeans, he said, because of the US geopolitical ambitions, "we are all one step from an arms race that could not be controlled or regulated in any way."

Meanwhile, the Russian envoy contrasted the military budget of his country to those of the United States and NATO, saying their military expenditure could have been contributing to sustainable development and helping people in developing countries.

Returning to arms control, Polyanskiy expressed his hope that "common sense and an instinct of self-defense" will "win out among our western partners," stressing "what's at stake here is the very existence of humanity."

Thursday's meeting focused on the recent intermediate-range cruise missile test conducted by the United States. The meeting was requested by China and Russia, citing the destabilizing effects of the test.

The US Department of Defense confirmed on Monday that it had conducted a flight test of a ground-launched cruise missile, which hit its intended target after traveling for more than 500 kilometers.

This marked the first time the United States conducted an intermediate-range cruise missile test after formally withdrawing from the INF Treaty.

The United States and former Soviet Union signed the INF Treaty in 1987 and ratified it the following year.

The treaty prohibited possessing, development and testing of ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Moscow and Washington had accused each other of violating the agreement in recent years amid increasing tensions.

In early February, the United States announced that it would suspend its treaty obligations and withdraw from the INF Treaty in six months if Russia failed to adhere to treaty provisions.

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to suspend Russia's participation in the INF Treaty in February.