| 24 May 2024, Friday |

Russia says it may be forced to deploy mid-range nuclear missiles in Europe

Russia stated on Monday that it may be obliged to deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe in reaction to NATO’s preparations.

The warning from Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov raises the prospect of a fresh armaments buildup on the continent, at a time when East-West tensions are at their highest since the Cold War ended three decades ago.

Ryabkov stated that Russia would be compelled to respond if the West refused to join it in a moratorium on intermediate-range nuclear weapons (INF) in Europe, which is part of a package of security assurances Russia is seeking as a price for defusing the Ukraine crisis.

If no progress is made toward a political and diplomatic settlement, Russia would respond militarily, using military technologies, Ryabkov warned Russia’s RIA news agency.

“That is, there will be a conflict, and this will be the next phase,” he added, alluding to Russia’s prospective deployment of missiles.

Intermediate-range nuclear weapons, with a range of 500 to 5,500 km (310 to 3,400 miles), were banned in Europe in a 1987 deal signed by then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and then-US President Ronald Reagan, which was regarded at the time as a major de-escalation of Cold War tensions. By 1991, over 2,700 of them had been destroyed by both sides.

Washington withdrew from the treaty in 2019 after years of complaints about claimed violations involving Russia’s development of a ground-launched cruise missile known as the 9M729 in Moscow and the “Screwdriver” in NATO.

According to Gerhard Mangott, a specialist on Russian foreign policy and arms control at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, if NATO is correct that Russia has already deployed this system in the European half of the nation, west of the Ural Mountains, Ryabkov’s warning is hollow.

However, if Russia’s denials are accurate, then Moscow’s warning is “the last signal to NATO that it should engage into discussions with Russia over a freeze-freeze accord,” he added.

“If NATO maintains its refusal to negotiate a compromise, we will almost probably see Russia deploy the Screwdriver missile at its very western frontier,” he warned.

Ryabkov has emerged as one of Moscow’s primary communicators in recent days, as President Vladimir Putin pressed for Western security assurances despite warnings from the US and its allies to avoid an invasion of Ukraine.

He reiterated a comparison he drew last week between the present tensions and the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which took the US and Soviet Union to the verge of nuclear war.

According to Ryabkov, there are “indirect signals” that NATO is getting closer to redeploying intermediate-range missiles, such as the reinstatement last month of the 56th Artillery Command, which operated nuclear-capable Pershing missiles during the Cold War.

NATO has stated that no new US missiles would be deployed in Europe, and that it is prepared to repel new Russian missiles with a “measured” reaction including only conventional weapons.

However, Ryabkov stated that Russia has a “total lack of faith” in the alliance.

“They don’t allow themselves to do anything that would boost our security – they feel they can act as they want, to their benefit, and we just have to swallow it all and cope with it. This is not going to happen again.”

  • Reuters