NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg cautioned Tuesday the military alliance will respond to "more Russian missiles" following the collapse of a key Cold War-era arms treaty but will not deploy more nuclear missiles in Europe.
Stoltenberg called on Russia to return to compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which the alliance insists Russia violated by developing a new missile system Moscow calls Novator 9M729.
The U.S. began the six-month process of withdrawing from the treaty on Feb. 2, claiming Russia's missile system violates the treaty's range requirements. The U.S. believes Russia's new missile system could enable Moscow to launch a nuclear attack in Europe with little or no warning.
The INF, which ended a buildup of warheads in Europe, bans the production and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500-5,500 kilometers. Russia contends the ground-fired cruise missile has a range of less than 500 kilometers, and that U.S. target practice missiles and drones violate the pact.
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty by announcing it would also pull out. Also, Putin's defense minister announced plans for new missiles, prompting a vow from U.S. President Donald Trump to outspend Russia.
Stoltenberg said ministers will meet Wednesday in Brussels to discuss the "steps NATO should take to adapt to a world with more Russian missiles." Stoltenberg added: "We don't have to mirror what Russia does, but we need to make sure we have effective deterrence and defense."
While Washington and Moscow are at odds over the INF, the treaty does nothing to constrain China, whose fast-growing military depends on medium-range missiles as a key aspect of its defense strategy.