Russia's non-compliance with key arms treaty raises concern

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has again raised the issue of Russia's non-compliance with the international INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) treaty.

This, he said, makes an arms race "more likely".

US President Donald Trump announced withdrawal from deal with Russia in October.

European officials are seeking to act as intermediaries between Russia and the US in the hope of salvaging the cold war-era arms control treaty.

Speaking in Brussels, Stoltenberg said he had raised the issue with EU defence ministers at a meeting earlier this week.

His comments come at the end of week in which the EU has announced the latest batch of projects under its flagship PESCO defence scheme and MEPs approved the €13bn European Defence Fund.

The former Norwegian PM said, "One challenge we all face and that is the new Russian missiles which are putting the INF Treaty in jeopardy. Russia has developed, tested and also fielded new missiles, SSC-8, for years.  

"These missiles are mobile, hard to detect, nuclear capable and they are putting the INF Treaty in jeopardy. The US is in full compliance with the INF Treaty, there are no new US missiles in Europe, but there are new Russian missiles in Europe, and therefore we should all call on Russia to ensure full and transparent compliance with the INF Treaty because we don’t want a new arms race and the INF Treaty has been important for our security for decade."

Noting that at the start of December, the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini will attend the NATO foreign ministerial meeting, Stoltenberg added, "I think this just reflects the unprecedented level of close cooperation between NATO and the EU.

"We work together in areas such as cyber, hybrid and maritime, and also exercises. Just now we are exercising side by side so I really welcome that NATO and EU are able to work more closely together than we have done ever before."

His comments come in the week when the 2nd batch of projects under the fledgling Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) defence pact were announced.

There will be 17 new projects in addition to the initial 17 projects agreed almost a year ago.

The new projects cover areas such as training, capability development and operational readiness on land, at sea and in the air, as well as cyber-defence.

Stoltenberg welcomed the new batch of projects, saying they will make a valuable contribution to European defence.

“I have welcomed EU efforts on defence many times, because I believe that projects such as military mobility, European Defence Fund, PESCO, all of that can contribute to fairer burden-sharing within NATO. It can complement NATO and it can also help to develop new NATO capabilities and also address the fragmentation of the European defence market. So this is something I have welcomed many many times.”

The eventual aim of PESCO is to develop and deploy forces together, backed by a multi-billion-euro fund for defense research and development.

Earlier this week, MEPs also formally approved the European Defence Fund. The proposed €13 billion Fund for 2021-2027 will have as a rule that at least three undertakings established in at least three Member States will have to cooperate to receive project funding.

Stoltenberg added,"I have welcomed EU efforts on defence many times, because I believe that projects such as military mobility, European Defence Fund, PESCO, all of that can contribute to fairer burden-sharing within NATO. 

"It can complement NATO and it can also help to develop new NATO capabilities and also address the fragmentation of the European defence market. So this is something I have welcomed many times.”

Some MEPs, including Tory Geoffrey Van Orden, believe the Fund will duplicate work done by Nato.

However, Stolenberg said, “But I have been equally clear about the fact that EU efforts must not compete with NATO, must not duplicate NATO, because NATO remains the bedrock for European security. We have to remember that after Brexit 80% of NATO’s defence expenditure will come from non-EU NATO Allies.”

When asked by a reporter if Europe needED a European Army, an idea regularly opposed by the UK, Stoltenberg said: “What Europe needs is more investment in defence, stronger capabilities, and we also need fairer burden sharing within the Alliance.I therefore  welcome EU efforts on defence, as for instance the European Defence Fund, military mobility or PESCO. Because I believe that can improve burden-sharing within NATO, it can provide new European capabilities.

" But this should never compete with NATO, it should complement NATO and thereby strengthen NATO by strengthening the European contributions to our shared security and collective defence."

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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