Putin says Russia will make new missiles, warns of arms race

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia September 5, 2019. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Vladimir Soldatkin

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia would produce missiles that were banned under a landmark Cold-War era nuclear pact that ended last month, but that Moscow would not deploy them unless the United States did so first.

Speaking at an economic forum in Russia’s Far East, Putin said Moscow had urged the United States to de-escalate a spiraling arms race between the former Cold War foes, but that Washington had not responded.

The Russian leader said he was concerned by U.S. talk of deploying missiles in Japan and South Korea, a deployment he said would cover parts of Russian territory.

Tensions over nuclear arms control have been rising after Washington formally pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) pact last month accusing Russia of violating it, allegations Moscow denied.

Last month the United States tested a conventionally-configured cruise missile that hit a target more than 500 km away, a test that would have been prohibited under the INF.

The pact banned land-based missiles with a range of 310-3,400 miles, reducing the ability of both countries to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.

“…Of course we will produce such missiles,” Putin told an economic forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok. He repeated a pledge by Moscow not to deploy any new missiles unless the United States does so first.

“We are not happy about the fact that the head of the Pentagon said that the United States intends to deploy them in Japan and South Korea, this saddens us and is a cause for certain concern,” Putin said.

Putin said he offered U.S. President Donald Trump in a recent phone call the chance to buy one of the hypersonic nuclear weapons Moscow is developing. He said Trump spurned the offer and replied that Washington was making its own.

Putin said he feared that an arms race could spread into space and that Washington could develop a new space weapon.

(Additional reporting by Andrey Kuzmin, Maria Vasilyeva; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Deploying new U.S. missiles would be ‘reckless act’: North Korean media

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Defence Mark Esper arrives for a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – Any move by the United States to place new ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in South Korea could spark a “new Cold War” and an escalating arms race in the region, North Korean state media said on Wednesday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper this month said he was in favor of placing ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in Asia, a day after the United States withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia.

“The U.S. pointed out that it is now examining a plan for deploying ground-to-ground medium-range missiles in the Asian region and South Korea has been singled out as a place for the deployment,” North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said.

“It is a reckless act of escalating regional tension, an act that may spark off a new Cold War and arms race in the Far Eastern region to deploy a new offensive weapon in South Korea,” it said in a commentary.

Other senior U.S. officials have said any deployment of such weaponry would be years away.

South Korea’s defense ministry has said there had been no discussion of placing American intermediate-range missiles in the country, and there were no plans to consider the idea.

The KCNA statement also criticized recent moves to improve military sites in South that host U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems, which are designed to intercept ballistic missiles.

“It is a hard fact that the deployment of THAAD is pursuant to the U.S. strategy to contain great powers and hold supremacy in Northeast Asia, not the one for ‘shielding’ South Korea from someone’s ‘threat’,” KCNA said.

North Korea’s military has launched a series of missiles in recent weeks to protest what it sees as a military build-up in South Korea, as well as joint military exercises by South Korean and American troops stationed on the peninsula.

The launches have complicated attempts to restart talks between U.S. and North Korean negotiators over the future of the country’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, which prompted sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Struggle between big powers spells hostile future: report

Munich Security Conference (MSC) chairman Wolfgang Ischinger presents the Munich Security Report for 2019 in Berlin, Germany, February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

BERLIN (Reuters) – A new age of competition between major global powers like China, the United States and Russia leaves the world facing an unpredictable and more hostile future, the hosts of a major security conference said on Monday.

Entitled “The Great Puzzle: Who Will Pick Up the Pieces?”, their report aims to set the agenda for leaders at the Munich Security Conference annual meeting from Thursday.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is due to attend the event in the Bavarian capital, which comes after Washington said earlier this month it would suspend compliance with a landmark nuclear missile pact with Russia.

“Given the prevailing strategic outlooks in Washington, Beijing, and Moscow, expectations of a new era of great power competition are seeming to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy,” the report read.

“If everyone prepares for a hostile world, its arrival is almost preordained … The post-Cold War period and the general optimism associated with it has come to an end.

“But it is unclear what kind of new order will emerge … and whether the transition period will be peaceful.”

Conference chairman Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to Washington, urged policymakers from mid-sized powers including the European Union to do more to preserve a liberal international order.

In a newspaper interview, Ischinger suggested France’s nuclear arsenal should serve the purpose of shielding the whole of the EU and not just France. This would mean EU countries would have to share the cost of maintaining France’s nuclear weapons, he told the Funke group of newspapers.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who addresses the conference on Saturday, is using her last term to focus on a foreign policy aimed at defending and refreshing multilateralism.

But the report said Berlin and Paris needed to work together more effectively to boost the capacity of the “ill-prepared” EU to deal with heightened great power competition.

“With domestic contexts in both capitals unlikely to become less complicated, the coming year will show whether the tandem can work out its differences or whether another window of opportunity has been missed,” the report read.

Running through other mid-sized powers, the report turned to Britain and said “Brexit proceedings will continue to inflict wounds on both sides of the Channel for years to come.”

Looking further east, it said: “Those counting on Japan to anchor security in East Asia may yet have to temper their expectations.”

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

For Putin, economic and political reality dampen any appetite for arms race

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) – With his ratings down and state funds needed to hedge against new Western sanctions and raise living standards, Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot afford to get sucked into a costly nuclear arms race with the United States.

Alleging Russian violations, Washington said this month it was suspending its obligations under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and starting the process of quitting it, untying its hands to develop new missiles.

That raises the prospect of a new arms race between Washington and Moscow, which denies flouting the treaty. Putin responded by saying Russia would mirror the U.S. moves by suspending its own obligations and quitting the pact.

But Putin, who has sometimes used bellicose rhetoric to talk up Russia’s standoff with the West and to rally Russians round the flag, did not up the ante.

He did not announce new missile deployments, said money for new systems must come from existing budget funds and declared that Moscow would not deploy new land-based missiles in Europe or elsewhere unless Washington did so first.

“…We must not and will not let ourselves be drawn into an expensive arms race,” Putin told Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

His statement was borne of necessity.

Harsh economic and political realities and memories of how the cost of the Cold War arms race contributed to the Soviet Union’s demise means Putin’s options are limited, a situation that may curb his appetite for expensive escalation in future.

“We need to keep in mind that the question of an arms race that could cut us into pieces is entirely realistic,” Sergei Dubinin, former governor of Russia’s central bank, told Russia’s RBC TV channel before Washington announced its exit.

He said the United States was trying to repeat its successful Cold War strategy of pushing Moscow into an arms race it could not afford and that Russia would be ill-advised to try to attain parity and needed a smart response instead.

Memories of empty supermarket shelves in the run-up to the 1991 Soviet collapse still haunt many older Russians as the then Soviet Union directed huge cash flows to the military-industrial complex to try to keep up with the United States while neglecting the consumer economy.

“They (the Americans) recall that the Soviet Union collapsed in part because it tried to keep up with the United States when it came to who produced more missiles, nuclear submarines and tanks,” Viktor Litovkin, a military expert, told the Russian army’s Zvezda TV channel.

“They are trying to do the same thing today.”

COUNTING THE COSTS

With the INF treaty suspended, Washington and Moscow have said they will develop previously prohibited short- and intermediate-range land-based missiles, with Russia saying it wants them ready by 2021.

Shoigu told Putin the money to develop two new land-based missile launchers would come from this year’s budget by reallocating existing funds.

Russia does not disclose the full extent of its military and national security spending, but says it will account for around 30 percent of its 18-trillion-rouble ($273-billion) budget this year.

Oil revenues mean Russia is not short of money. Its budget surplus this year is projected to be 1.932 trillion rubles ($29.3 billion) or 1.8 percent of gross domestic product. Russia’s foreign exchange reserves stand at $478 billion, the fifth largest in the world.

But the money is already allocated in a way dictated by Moscow’s difficult geopolitical situation and by Putin’s own increasingly tricky domestic political landscape. Reallocating the money would be painful.

Moscow is hoarding cash to try to give itself a $200-billion buffer against new Western sanctions and is embarking on a multi-billion dollar spending push to try to overhaul the country’s creaky infrastructure and raise living standards.

With signs of rising discontent over years of falling real incomes, rising prices, an increase in value-added tax and an unpopular plan to raise the pension age, Putin is under pressure to deliver.

Igor Nikolaev, director of auditor FBK’s Strategic Analysis Institute, said Putin might have to take money from other parts of the budget to fund a new arms race which would force him to scale back social spending plans or dip into the national wealth fund to top up the budget.

If a burgeoning arms race intensified, such a scenario would become more likely and Putin would be reluctant to spend more on defense in the current political climate, he said.

“It would not be desirable, especially as we know what’s happening with real incomes and that there are problems with his rating,” said Nikolaev. “Cutting spending on national projects would receive a mixed reaction.”

Though re-elected last year until 2024, and therefore not under immediate political pressure, Putin’s trust rating has fallen to a 13-year low. A poll this month showed the number of Russians who believe their country is going in the wrong direction hit its highest level since 2006.

Putin’s symmetrical response to Washington, which involves developing new missiles, has already angered some Russians.

“Are new arms a source of joy?” wrote blogger Vladimir Akimov, saying the money would be better spent on lifting people out of poverty. “Why not begin by repairing the roads and knocking down the wooden shacks (that people live in) across the country.”

(Additional reporting by Andrey Ostroukh, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

U.S. has offered to hold arms control talks with Russia -official

FILE PHOTO: National flags of Russia and the U.S. fly at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has offered to hold talks on arm control issues with Russia on the sidelines of a United Nations meeting in Beijing next week, a senior State Department official said on Thursday.

Under Secretary of State Andrea Thompson told reporters the talks almost certainly would include a dispute over a Cold War-era treaty limiting intermediate-range missiles.

Washington has pledged to withdraw from the pact because of what it charges is the deployment by Moscow of a new cruise missile that violates the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty).

Moscow has denied that the missile in question, the Novator 9M729 (called the SSC-8 by NATO), violates the agreement, which bars either side from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe.

Moscow says the missile’s range keeps it outside of the treaty and has accused the United States of inventing a false pretext to leave an accord it wants to exit anyway to develop its own new missiles.

Thompson said the United States has presented Russia with a proposal for a “verifiable” test of the missile’s range but Moscow has not embraced the plan.

Unless the Russians come back into compliance with the INF Treaty, the United States will make good on its decision to suspend its compliance with the pact at the end of a 60-day period on Feb. 2, Thompson said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Former President George H.W. Bush remembered for role in Cold War, Iraq

A flag is draped over the gate to the neighborhood of the home of former President George H.W. Bush, a day after he passed away in Houston, Texas, U.S. December 1, 2018. REUTERS/Gary McWilliams

By Gary McWilliams and Bill Trott

HOUSTON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tributes to former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who died at the age of 94, poured in from around the world on Saturday as global leaders honored him for his role in helping to end the Cold War and reduce the threat of nuclear annihilation.

FILE PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) picks up the formal endorsement of former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush in Houston March 29, 2012. REUTERS/Donna Carson/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) picks up the formal endorsement of former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush in Houston March 29, 2012. REUTERS/Donna Carson/File Photo

Bush, the 41st U.S. president who served in the office from 1989 to 1993, also routed President Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army in the 1991 Gulf War but lost his chance for a second term in the White House after breaking a no-new-

taxes pledge.

“Many of my memories are linked to him,” said Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, with whom Bush signed a strategic arms reduction treaty that scaled back the two countries’ nuclear arsenals.

“We happened to work together in years of great changes. It was a dramatic time demanding huge responsibility from everyone,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Gorbachev as saying.

Bush, who also served for eight years as U.S. vice president during Ronald Reagan’s two-term presidency and earlier as head of the CIA, died on Friday night at his home in Houston. His death was announced by his longtime spokesman Jim McGrath.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President George H.W. Bush laughs while attending the annual White House Correspondents Association Awards dinner in Washington May 21, 1988. REUTERS/Stelios Varias/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President George H.W. Bush laughs while attending the annual White House Correspondents Association Awards dinner in Washington May 21, 1988. REUTERS/Stelios Varias/File Photo

Speaking in Buenos Aires, U.S. President Donald Trump called Bush “a high-quality man.”

“He was a very fine man. I met him on numerous occasions. He was just a high-quality man who truly loved his family,” Trump told reporters at a G20 summit in Buenos Aires. “He was a terrific guy and he’ll be missed. He led a full life, and a very exemplary life, too.”

The White House said a state funeral will be held on Wednesday at the National Cathedral in Washington. Trump, who plans to attend the funeral with first lady Melania Trump, also designated Wednesday as a national day of mourning and ordered the lowering of the American flag for 30 days.

Former U.S. presidents lauded Bush. “His administration was marked by grace, civility and social conscience,” Jimmy Carter, a Bush predecessor and now the oldest living former president at 94, said in a statement.

Barack Obama described Bush as “a patriot and humble servant” while Bill Clinton, who defeated Bush in the 1992 presidential election, recalled his “great long life of service, love and friendship.”

FILE PHOTO: George H. W. Bush, in uniform as a Naval Aviator Cadet, is pictured in this early 1943 handout photo obtained by Reuters November 30, 2012. George Bush Presidential Library and Museum/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: George H. W. Bush, in uniform as a Naval Aviator Cadet, is pictured in this early 1943 handout photo obtained by Reuters November 30, 2012. George Bush Presidential Library and Museum/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

Bush, a U.S. naval aviator during World War Two, was the father of former President George W. Bush, who served two terms in the White House in the 2000s, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Republican nomination for president. Like his sons, he was a Republican.

After falling short of his party’s presidential nomination in 1980, Bush ran for the presidency again in 1988 and defeated Massachusetts Democrat Michael Dukakis, winning 40 of the 50 U.S. states.

His death came seven months after that of his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, to whom he was married for 73 years. He was admitted to a Houston hospital with a blood infection that led to sepsis a day after her funeral in April.

“The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens,” George W. Bush said in a statement.

Trump said he spoke on Saturday to George W. Bush and Jeb Bush about their father’s death.

At a gate outside the Houston neighborhood where the Bushes lived, residents on Saturday created a makeshift memorial by laying flowers before a U.S. flag.

“They weren’t just the president and former first lady, they were part of the neighborhood,” said Ellen Prelle, who added a poinsettia and remembered the former first couple as involved and caring.

At the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, German Chancellor Angela Merkel recalled visiting him in the White House. “He was the father or one of the fathers of German reunification and we will never forget that,” she said.

Bush served as president during the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

“His ethos of public service was the guiding thread of his life and an example to us all,” said British Prime Minister Theresa May. “In navigating a peaceful end to the Cold War, he made the world a safer place for generations to come.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Bush “faithfully served his country all his life – with a gun in his hand during the war years and in high government roles in peacetime,” according to Russian state news agency TASS.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President George H. W. Bush waves goodbye to U.S. Marines and members of the British 7th Armoured Brigade as they conclude a Thanksgiving Day visit with troops in the Saudi desert November 22, 1990. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President George H. W. Bush waves goodbye to U.S. Marines and members of the British 7th Armoured Brigade as they conclude a Thanksgiving Day visit with troops in the Saudi desert November 22, 1990. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

EXTENSIVE POLITICAL RESUME

George Herbert Walker Bush, a Connecticut Yankee who came to Texas to be an oilman, died as the patriarch of a Republican political dynasty. He and George W. Bush were only the second father and son to hold the office of president, after John Adams (1797-1801) and John Quincy Adams (1825-1829).

His second son, Jeb, undertook his own campaign for the presidency in 2015 before dropping out. Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, was a U.S. senator from Connecticut.

Trump signed an order closing the federal government on Wednesday in a show of respect for Bush. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will also be closed on Wednesday in his honor.

Bush’s body will arrive at the U.S. Capitol on Monday and lie in state through Wednesday morning. The public will be able to line up to view Bush’s casket continuously from Monday evening until Wednesday morning.

Trump said the presidential plane will be flown to Houston to bring Bush’s body to Washington after Trump returns from Argentina. Bush’s body will be returned to Houston on Wednesday and a service will be held on Thursday at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church there.

Bush’s casket will then travel by train from nearby Spring, Texas to College Station. He will be buried on Thursday on the grounds of his presidential library at Texas A&M University, the school said. He will be buried in a family plot next to his late wife.

Bush had first sought the presidency in 1980, campaigning on experience gathered as a U.S. congressman from Texas, envoy to China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, United Nations ambassador and chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Reagan, the former actor and California governor, vanquished Bush in the Republican primaries but chose him as his running mate, hoping Bush’s reputation as a moderate would balance his own hard, conservative image.

The high points of Bush’s presidency included the end of the Cold War, which brought the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its hold on former Eastern Bloc countries.

“He was the only one of the world leaders at the time (who) did so much to overcome communism and help Poland,” said Lech Walesa, the former head of Poland’s Solidarity trade union who led protests and strikes that shook communist rule in the 1980s.

“He will remain in hearts and memory forever,” Walesa said on Twitter.

Bush won a decisive victory in ousting Saddam’s Iraqi army from Kuwait, bringing him popularity at home, and made progress on Middle East peace. But Bush’s foreign affairs victories were overshadowed by a stagnant economy at home. He broke his “read my lips” pledge not to raise taxes and lost his 1992 re-election bid to Clinton, a Democrat.

Bush, who was born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts, grew up wealthy, attending elite schools but putting off college so he could enlist in the Navy at 18. He flew 58 missions off aircraft carriers in World War Two and survived being shot down over the Pacific Ocean.

After returning from the war, he married Barbara Pierce, with whom he would have six children. After he graduated from Yale University on an accelerated schedule, the Bushes headed to the oil fields of West Texas.

It was there that Bush became involved in politics, first losing a U.S. Senate race in 1964 before winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1966.

After two terms and another failed Senate bid in 1970, he was appointed by President Richard Nixon as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In 1974, President Gerald Ford made him an envoy to China and later director of the CIA.

Bush did not endorse fellow Republican Trump, the eventual winner of the 2016 presidential election who attacked both Jeb and George W. Bush during his campaign. He did not publicly say whom he voted for in the election, but a source told CNN he went for Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Bush did send Trump a letter in January 2017 saying he would not be able to attend his inauguration because of health concerns but wishing him the best.

(Reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston; Bill Trott, David Morgan, David Shepardson and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Roberta Rampton in Buenos Aires; Mark Heinrich in London; Andrew Osborn in Moscow; and Marcin Goclowski in Warsaw; Editing by Alistair Bell, Jonathan Oatis and Will Dunham)

Former President George H.W. Bush dead at 94

FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush speaks at the World Leadership Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates November 21, 2006. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

(Reuters) – Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who presided over the end of the Cold War and routed Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army, died on Friday at the age of 94, a family spokesman said.

Bush, the 41st president of the United States, lived longer than any of his predecessors. His death at 10:10 p.m. Central time was announced in a statement issued by longtime spokesman Jim McGrath. No further details about the circumstances of his death were immediately available.

He was the father of former President George W. Bush, who served two terms in the White House from 2001 through 2008, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Republican nomination for president.

The elder Bush, a Republican like his sons, also served as vice president for eight years during Ronald Reagan’s two terms as president, before being elected to the White House himself.

He defeated former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee, in the 1988 presidential campaign, and lost his 1992 re-election bid to Democrat Bill Clinton.

Bush’s death came seven months after that of his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, to whom he was married for 73 years.

The former president, who served as a U.S. naval aviator during World War Two, had attended his wife’s funeral in Houston in a wheelchair and wore a pair of colorful socks festooned with books, in honor of his late wife’s commitment to literacy.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Robert Birsel and Tom Hogue)

Putin says Russia will retaliate if U.S. quits nuclear missile treaty: agencies

Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with top officials of the Russian Defence Ministry in Sochi, Russia November 19, 2018. Picture taken November 19, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday the Kremlin would retaliate if the United States withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, Russian news agencies reported.

Putin discussed possible Russian retaliation with top Russian Defence Ministry officials and added that the Kremlin was ready to discuss the INF treaty with Washington.

The Cold War-era treaty, which rid Europe of land-based nuclear missiles, has come into question against a backdrop of renewed tensions between the West and Russia, most notably over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and role in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has accused Russia of non-compliance with the 31-year-old missile accord and warned it will pull out of the deal as a result. The Kremlin denies violating the pact.

NATO and Russian envoy addressed the dispute during rare talks on Oct. 31, with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urging Moscow to make quick changes to comply in full with the treaty. He said Russia’s development of the land-based, intermediate-range SSC-8 cruise missile posed “a serious risk to strategic stability”.

European leaders worry any collapse of the INF treaty could lead to a new, destabilizing arms race.

(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Russia, U.S. clash over INF arms treaty at United Nations

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Ronald Reagan (R) and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty at the White House, Washington, on December 8 1987. REUTERS/Stringer

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia failed on Friday to get the U.N. General Assembly to consider calling on Washington and Moscow to preserve and strengthen an arms control treaty that helped end the Cold War and warned that if the United States quits the pact it could raise the issue in the U.N. Security Council.

President Donald Trump said on Oct. 20 that Washington planned to quit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty which Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, and Ronald Reagan had signed in 1987. It eliminated all short- and intermediate-range land-based nuclear and conventional missiles held by both states in Europe.

Washington has cited Russia’s alleged violation of the treaty as its reason for leaving it, a charge Moscow denies. Russia, in turn, accuses Washington of breaking the pact.

Russia had proposed a draft resolution in the 193-member General Assembly’s disarmament committee but missed the Oct. 18 submission deadline. On Friday, it called for a vote on whether the committee should be allowed to consider the draft, but lost with only 31 votes in favor, 55 against and 54 abstentions.

“In a year, if the U.S. withdraws from the treaty and begins an uncontrolled build-up of weapons, nuclear-capable weapons, we will be confronting a completely different reality,” Andrei Belousov, deputy director of Russia’s Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, told the committee.

He questioned whether the United States was preparing for a war, asking: “Why is it then … do they want to leave the treaty? Why do they want to build up their nuclear capability?”

Belousov said if the United States follows through on its threat to withdraw, then Russia could raise the issue in the 15-member Security Council. However, such a move would not lead to any action as both countries have veto powers in the council.

U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood told the committee Washington had spent some five years trying to engage Moscow on the issue of compliance and that Russia had “denied having produced or tested a ground-launch cruise missile.”

“It’s only recently that they admitted to having produced a ground-launch cruise missile but then maintained that it did not violate the range limits of the treaty,” he said.

“The U.S. has been extremely patient with Russia and our hope is that Russia will do the right thing and destroy that ground-launch cruise missile,” Wood said.

European members of NATO urged the United States on Thursday to try to bring Russia back into compliance with the treaty rather than quit it, diplomats said, seeking to avoid a split in the alliance that Moscow could exploit.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by James Dalgleish)

As winter comes, NATO kicks off largest maneuvers since Cold War

FILE PHOTO: U.S., German, Spanish and Polish troops of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence battle goups with their tanks get ready for the Iron Tomahawk exercise in Adazi, Latvia October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

By Terje Solsvik

OSLO (Reuters) – Military forces from 31 countries began NATO’s largest exercise in decades, stretching from the Baltic Sea to Iceland, on Thursday, practicing military maneuvers close to Russia, which itself held a huge military drill last month.

As temperatures fell below freezing across training grounds in central Norway, giving a taste of what it means to defend NATO’s vast northern flank, some 50,000 troops, 250 aircraft and 10,000 tanks, trucks and other land-based vehicles were ready.

“Forces are in position, they are integrating and starting combat enhancement training for major battlefield operations over the next two weeks,” Colonel Eystein Kvarving at Norway’s Joint Headquarters told Reuters.

Dubbed Trident Juncture, the exercise is by far the biggest in Norway since the early 1980s, a sign that the alliance wants to sharpen its defenses after years of cost cuts and far-flung combat missions.

Increasingly concerned about Russia since it annexed Crimea in 2014, Norway has sought to double the number of U.S. Marines receiving training on its soil every year, a move criticized by Moscow.

Russia last month held its biggest maneuvers since 1981, called Vostok-2018 (East-2018), mobilizing 300,000 troops in a show of force close to China’s border which included joint drills with the Chinese and Mongolian armies.

NATO’s war games were originally meant to involve 35,000 troops, but the number grew in recent months and included the late addition of an aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman with some 6,000 personnel.

NATO fears Russia’s military build-up in the region could ultimately restrict naval forces’ ability to navigate freely, and on Oct. 19 the Truman became the first American aircraft carrier to enter the Arctic Circle since before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Although a solid majority of Norwegians support membership of NATO, whose secretary general is former Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, some parties on the left would prefer that the country quit the alliance and form some type of military cooperation arrangement with its Nordic neighbors.

“The effect of this activity will increase the tension between Norway and Russia,” Socialist member of parliament Torgeir Knag Fylkesnes said of the exercise, adding that the presence of an aircraft carrier caused particular concern.

“You have to be quite hawkish to view this as something that brings peace in any way,” he told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos; Editing by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)