Kay Bailey Hutchison, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, said that the U.S. is willing to “take out” Russian missiles that it believes are in violation of a treaty between the two nations if Russia does get rid of these missiles on its own, Reuters reported. She later clarified that she was not referring to a pre-emptive strike on Russian territory.
What are the details?
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, agreed to by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987, banned either nation from owning “ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, their launchers and associated support structures and support equipment.”
The U.S. government believes that Russia currently owns a missile, the Novator 9M729, which violates the INF treaty. Russia firmly denies these accusations and says that the missile in question is allowed under the agreement.
Hutchison said that a diplomatic solution would be preferable, but that the United States would not hesitate to act if Russia refused to destroy these missiles.
Before a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Belgium, Hutchison said:
Getting them to withdraw would be our choice, of course. But I think the question was what would you do if this continues to a point where we know that they are capable of delivering. And at that point we would then be looking at a capability to take out a missile that could hit any of our countries in Europe and hit America in Alaska.
Hutchison later clarified in a tweet that she “was not talking about preemptively striking Russia,” but was saying, “The current situation ... is untenable.”
What did NATO say?
In a news conference, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he believed that, despite Russia's insistence, “the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the treaty.” He urged the Russian government to address “these concerns in a substantial and transparent manner.”
A spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry called Hutchison's comments “aggressive rhetoric” in an interview with CNN and asked if “ordinary people in the USA know that the so-called diplomats” that represent them “behave so aggressively and destructively.”