U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday NATO defense ministers are considering ways to bring Russia into compliance with a key arms control treaty.
The U.S. has maintained that Russia has deployed cruise missiles in violation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which prohibits the deployment of land-based U.S. and Russian short- and intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
"We have a firm belief now over several years that the Russians have violated the INF and our effort is to bring Russia back into compliance," Mattis told reporters as he met with Thursday in Belgium with his NATO counterparts.
Mattis said NATO's discussions about Russia were held with an eye toward sustaining other arms control pacts as well.
"This is absolutely necessary to sustain confident arms control agreements and we’re doing so in a substantial, transparent and verifiable fashion.”
Russia has repeatedly denied the claims and accused the United States of violating the treaty. Moscow contends the U.S. Patriot missile systems deployed in Poland and Romania could be customized to launch missiles at Russia.
Mattis, who added that several other NATO nations also had evidence Russia was not in compliance, said he and the other NATO defense ministers would have discussions with Russia to try to resolve the issue.
The treaty was signed in 1987 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the then leader of the Soviet Union.