Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has warned that the planned U.S. withdrawal from a Cold War nuclear arms treaty could critically undermine stability in Europe.
Ryabkov said on November 26 that Russia was expecting a U.S. deployment of new missiles in Europe after Washington withdraws from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), despite Washington denying it has such plans.
The 1987 INF Treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,000 kilometers.
Amid persistent tension between the United States and Russia, both sides accuse each other of violating the accord, and U.S. President Donald Trump last month declared his intention to withdraw the United States from it, triggering angry reactions from Moscow.
Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, are expected to discuss the matter on the side-lines of the November 30-December 1 summit of the Group of 20 (G20) in Argentina.
Ryabkov told a news conference that Russia was open to talks on the issue with Washington but added that Moscow was skeptical about assertions that no new missiles would be deployed in Europe.
"We hear [the denials] but nothing more," Ryabkov said. "Plans have been changed many times before. We don't want to be disappointed in our [U.S.] colleagues again and therefore we are assuming the worst-case scenario in our military planning."
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said he did not believe there would be new deployments of U.S. missiles in Europe, while U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton said Washington was a long way from taking decisions about deploying such missiles.
Ryabkov said the United States would be able to deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe "within years," something he said would fuel a dangerous arms race.
"In the event of such a deployment the Americans would gain significant extra capabilities, allowing them to strike at targets deep inside Russia," he added.
The diplomat also said that, if the United States stations the currently banned missiles in Europe, Moscow's response would be "effective." He did not elaborate.
Putin has said that Russia would be forced to target any European countries that agreed to host intermediate-range missiles.