The United States is reviewing military options, including new intermediate-range cruise missile systems, in response to what it says is Russia’s ongoing violation of a Cold War-era pact banning such missiles, the State Department said on Friday.
Washington is prepared “to cease such research and development activities” if Russia returns to compliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
Nauert also hinted at possible economic sanctions, saying the United States is “pursuing economic and military measures intended to induce the Russian Federation to return to compliance.”
The warning was the Trump administration’s first response to U.S. charges first levelled in 2014 that Russia had deployed a ground-launched cruise missile that breaches the pact’s ban on testing and fielding missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kms (310-3,417 miles).
U.S. officials have said the Russian cruise missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and that Moscow has refused to hold in-depth discussions about the alleged breach.
Russia has denied it is violating the accord. In a statement issued before Nauert’s, the Russian foreign ministry said it was ready for talks with the United States to try to preserve the treaty and would comply with its obligations if the United States did.
In a statement marking the 30th anniversary of the treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union, the ministry said Moscow considered “the language of ultimatums” and sanctions unacceptable.
The U.S. allegation has further strained relations between Moscow and Washington. U.S. and Russian officials are to discuss the issue at a meeting in coming weeks of the special commission that oversees the treaty, said a U.S. official, who requested anonymity.
In the U.S. statement, Nauert said the United States “remains firmly committed to the INF Treaty and continues to seek the Russian Federation’s return to compliance.”