Russia extends detention of ex-U.S. Marine accused of spying

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained and accused of espionage, stands inside a defendants' cage before a court hearing in Moscow, Russia August 23, 2019. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

By Andrew Osborn and Polina Ivanova

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court on Friday extended by two months the pre-trial detention of a former U.S. Marine who has been held in Russia on suspicion of spying since December and who accused Moscow prison authorities of injuring him.

The court ordered Paul Whelan held until the end of October, as Russian news agencies reported that authorities said they planned to wrap up their investigation into him in two weeks and present definitive accusations.

Whelan, who denies the allegations against him, said the court hearings were a waste of time.

“It’s simply a dog and pony show for the media,” he told reporters. “We are not doing anything at all. We are just sitting around and walking back and forth.”

Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained by agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28 after a Russian acquaintance gave him a flash drive which his lawyer said he thought contained holiday photos, but which actually held classified information.

Whelan believes he was set up in a politically-motivated sting..

On Friday, he said he was the victim of “a political kidnapping,” and that he had been subjected to an isolation regime designed to force him to make a false confession.

Whelan also told reporters that he had received an injury while in jail, which his lawyer told Russian news agencies happened while he was being moved from one cell to another.

“I’m standing here in great pain,” said Whelan. “It’s inhumane.”

His lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said Whelan was suffering from a long-standing groin hernia that his client said prison authorities aggravated by dragging him. Whelan was willing to be operated on in Russia, Zherebenkov added.

The presiding judge ordered an ambulance to be called. A Russian medic then examined Whelan before concluding there were no grounds for him to be hospitalized.

Whelan’s brother, David Whelan who lives in Canada, denounced the court proceedings as a farce and said he was worried about Paul’s physical condition. He said the two have not spoken directly since December.

“While his statement was cut off, what we heard makes us concerned about his treatment at Lefortovo prison,” David Whelan said in an email.

If found guilty, Whelan faces up to 20 years in jail.

(Additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Gareth Jones and Marguerita Choy)

Putin says deadly military accident occurred during weapons systems test

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in the Presidental Palace in Helsinki, Finland, August 21, 2019. Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva/via REUTERS

By Olesya Astakhova and Anne Kauranen

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that a deadly blast at a military site in northern Russia earlier this month had taken place during the testing of what he called promising new weapons systems.

Putin said that Moscow could not reveal everything about the blast because of its military nature, but that information exchanges about such accidents should be improved.

“When it comes to activities of a military nature, there are certain restrictions on access to information,” Putin told a news conference in Helsinki, standing alongside Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

He did not reveal which weapons system was being tested at the time of the blast on Aug. 8.

“This is work in the military field, work on promising weapons systems. We are not hiding this,” Putin said. “We must think of our own security.”

Russia’s state nuclear agency said this month that five of its staff members were killed and three others injured in a blast involving “isotope power sources” that took place during a rocket test on a sea platform. Two Russian military personnel were also reported to have been killed.

Putin said this week that there was no risk of increased radiation levels following the blast and that all necessary preventive measures were being taken.

(Reporting by Olesya Astakhova and Anne Kauranen; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Earth to FEDOR: Russia launches humanoid robot into space

Russian Soyuz-2.1a booster with the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft carrying robot Skybot F-850 blasts off from a launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan August 22, 2019. Russian space agency Roscosmos/Handout via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian humanoid robot was making its way on Thursday to the International Space Station after blasting off on a two-week mission to support the crew and test his skills.

Known as FEDOR, which stands for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research, the Skybot F-850 is the first humanoid robot to be sent to space by Russia. NASA sent humanoid robot Robonaut 2 to space in 2011 to work in hazardous environments.

“The robot’s main purpose it to be used in operations that are especially dangerous for humans onboard spacecraft and in outer space,” Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Thursday after the launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The ISS is a joint project of the space agencies of the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada.

Traveling in an unmanned Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft, FEDOR is expected to dock at the ISS on Saturday with 1,450 pounds (660 kg) of cargo including medical supplies and food rations for the crew waiting at the station, NASA said.

FEDOR, who is the size an adult and can emulate movements of the human body, has apparently embraced his mission, describing himself as “an assistant to the ISS crew” on his Twitter page, which has 4,600 followers.

“Everything is normal,” a tweet posted on his account said a few hours into his flight.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Putin: U.S. in position to deploy new cruise missile in Europe

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in the Presidental Palace in Helsinki, Finland, August 21, 2019. Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva/via REUTERS

HELSINKI (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the United States was in a position to deploy a new land-based cruise missile in Romania and Poland and that Russia considered that a threat which it would have to respond to.

The Pentagon said on Monday it had tested a conventionally-configured cruise missile that hit its target after more than 500 km (310 miles) of flight, its first such test since the demise of a landmark nuclear pact this month.

Putin, who was speaking during a visit to Helsinki, said that Washington could potentially use its launch systems in Romania and Poland to fire the missile and that Russia would have to respond in an appropriate and reciprocal manner.

(Reporting by Olesya Astakhova; Writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn)

Tens of thousands flee Russia-led attack on Syrian opposition enclave

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows Khan Sheikhoun in the southern countryside of Idlib March 16, 2015. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi/File Photo - RC12399C7770

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) – Ten of thousands of people have fled to Syria’s border with Turkey in the last few days as a Syrian army advance pushed further into the opposition’s last major stronghold, residents, rights groups and opposition sources said on Wednesday.

They left Maarat al-Numan, a city in Idlib province that has been a sanctuary for families fleeing former rebel areas, as a Russian-led push has come close to capturing the strategic town of Khan Sheikhoun further south.

“The flow of cars and vehicles leaving is not stopping,” said Abdullah Younis from the city. Rescuers there said around 60,000 people had fled in the last four days alone.

On Tuesday, Russian and Syrian jets intensified their bombing of scattered villages and towns around Maarat al-Numan, with the al-Rahma hospital in the area struck, residents said.

“There were 15 raids on Jarjanaz in less than five minutes,” Abdul Rahman al Halabi told Reuters from the area.

Rebels concede most of their fighters have fled Khan Sheikhoun but are providing fierce resistance to the Syrian army, which has secured a foothold in the rebel-held town that was bombed with sarin gas in 2017.

State media on Tuesday said government forces were battling militants but had extended their advance and seized a highway running through the town.

Taking Khan Sheikhoun would be an important gain for Moscow and its ally into the northwestern region, where Moscow has helped President Bashar al Assad turn the tide in the eight-year-old conflict since stepping up its intervention in 2015.

Russia has backed the campaign, making thousands of raids on rebel-held northern Hama and southern Idlib in what Western experts say is a “scorched earth strategy”.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledged on Tuesday that Russia had military personnel on the ground in Idlib province, the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

MERCENARIES

Russia has previously downplayed its direct role in the advance, where it used mercenaries as well as directing battles, according to Western intelligence sources.

The fall of Khan Sheikhoun ends rebel control over northern Hama province, where a rebel group, Jaish al-Izza, had been defending the three major towns of Latamneh, Kfr Zita and Morek.

The latest advance has been aided by thousands of new reinforcements including Iranian-backed militias.

A suspected Syrian army strike on Monday hit near a Turkish military convoy heading to an observation post near Khan Sheikhoun. Damascus denounced what it said was a Turkish attempt to save routed rebels.

A senior Turkish security official told Reuters talks were going on with Russia over the fate of the convoy, which was en route to an outpost near the frontline. The convoy had not moved since the strike, but there was no possibility the post “would be abandoned.”

Rebels said a Turkish patrol on Wednesday moved from one of a dozen military posts established in the area under agreements reached with Russia in what they said was a message by Ankara that it won’t succumb to Syrian government pressure to pull out.

The Turkish presence in the northwest and extensive covert military aid it has extended to some Ankara-backed rebel factions had complicated the campaign to seize the last rebel bastion, Syrian military experts and rebels say.

After months of stalemate Russia has increased the intensity of raids in the last 10 days, transforming the situation on the ground. Hundreds of civilians have been killed and at least 400,000 people displaced, medics, NGOs and the United Nations say.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights said 196 children were among the 843 civilians killed in the Russian and Syrian raids since the campaign began last April.

Moscow and Damascus, who deny indiscriminate bombing of civilians areas or targeting hospitals, say they are fighting jihadist militants drawn from across the world.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun in Ankara, Editing by Jon Boyle/William Maclean)

Russia, China accuse U.S. of stoking tensions with missile test

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

By Tom Balmforth and Maria Kiselyova

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia and China accused the United States on Tuesday of stoking military tensions by testing a ground-launched cruise missile, but the foreign ministry in Moscow said it would not be drawn into an arms race.

The Pentagon said on Monday it had tested a conventionally-configured cruise missile that hit its target after more than 500 km (310 miles) of flight, its first such test since the demise of a landmark nuclear pact this month.

The United States formally withdrew from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia on Aug. 2 after accusing Moscow of violating it, a charge dismissed by the Kremlin.

The text would have been banned under the INF, which prohibited land-based missiles with a range of between 310 and 3,400 miles, reducing the ability of both countries to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.

Washington had “obviously taken the course of escalating military tensions,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said

Russia would, however, not allow itself “to be pulled into a costly arms race” and did not plan to deploy new missiles unless the United States did so first, he was quoted as saying by TASS news agency.

The Kremlin said the U.S. missile test showed that Washington had long been preparing to exit the nuclear pact.

“It is simply not possible to prepare for such tests in a few weeks or a few months. This …shows that it was not Russia, but the United States with its actions that brought the breakdown of the INF,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

China also expressed concern.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the test showed the United States was stoking a new arms race and confrontation, which would have a serious negative impact on regional and global security.

“We advise the U.S. side to abandon outdated notions of Cold War thinking and zero-sum games, and exercise restraint in developing arms,” Geng told a daily news briefing.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Andrew Heavens and John Stonestreet)

Global network’s nuclear sensors in Russia went offline after mystery blast

FILE PHOTO: Antennas of a testing facility for seismic and infrasound technologies of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) are shown in the garden of their headquarters in Vienna, Austria, September 28, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) – The operator of a global network of radioactivity sensors said on Monday its two Russian sites closest to a mysterious explosion on Aug. 8 went offline two days after the blast, raising concern about possible tampering by Russia.

The Russian Defense Ministry, which operates the two stations, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Russia’s state nuclear agency Rosatom has acknowledged that nuclear workers were killed in the explosion, which occurred during a rocket engine test near the White Sea in far northern Russia.

The explosion also caused a spike in radiation in a nearby city and prompted a local run on iodine, which is used to reduce the effects of radiation exposure.

Russian authorities have given no official explanation for why the blast triggered the rise in radiation. U.S.-based nuclear experts have said they suspect Russia was testing a nuclear-powered cruise missile vaunted by President Vladimir Putin last year.

“We’re … addressing w/ station operators technical problems experienced at two neighboring stations,” Lassina Zerbo, head of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), said on Twitter overnight.

The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System includes atmospheric sensors that pick up so-called radionuclide particles wafting through the air. Zerbo said data from stations on or near the path of a potential plume of gas from the explosion were still being analyzed.

“COMMUNICATION AND NETWORK ISSUES”

The two Russian monitoring stations nearest the explosion, Dubna and Kirov, stopped transmitting on Aug. 10, and Russian officials told the CTBTO they were having “communication and network issues”, a CTBTO spokeswoman said on Monday.

“We’re awaiting further reports on when the stations and/or the communication system will be restored to full functionality.”

While the CTBTO’s IMS network is global and its stations report data back to CTBTO headquarters in Vienna, those stations are operated by the countries in which they are located.

It is not clear what caused the outage or whether the stations might have been tampered with by Russia, analysts said.

“About 48 hours after the incident in Russia on Aug. 8 these stations stopped transmitting data. I find that to be a curious coincidence,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based think tank.

He and other analysts said any Russian tampering with IMS stations would be a serious matter but it was also likely to be futile as other IMS or national stations could also pick up telltale particles.

“There is no point in what Russia seems to have tried to do. The network of international sensors is too dense for one country withholding data to hide an event,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Non-Proliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute in California.

The CTBTO’s Zerbo also posted a simulation of the explosion’s possible plume, showing it reaching Dubna and Kirov on Aug. 10 and Aug. 11, two and three days after the explosion.

Rosatom has said the accident, which killed five of its staff, involved “isotope power sources”.

The CTBTO’s IMS comprises more than 300 seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide stations dotted around the world that together are aimed at detecting and locating a nuclear test anywhere. Its technology can, however, be put to other uses, as in the Russian case.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Osborn in Moscow; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Russia flies nuclear-capable bombers to region facing Alaska

FILE PHOTO: Russian army Tupolev Tu-160 (R) and Tupolev Tu-22M3 fly in formation over St. Basil's Cathedral during the rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Moscow, Russia May 4, 2019. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva/File Photo

By Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said on Wednesday it had flown two nuclear-capable TU-160 bombers to a far eastern Russian region opposite Alaska as part of a training exercise that state media said showed Moscow’s ability to park nuclear arms on the United States’ doorstep.

The Tupolev TU-160 strategic bomber, nicknamed the White Swan in Russia, is a supersonic Soviet-era aircraft capable of carrying up to 12 short-range nuclear missiles and of flying 12,000 km (7,500 miles) non-stop without re-fuelling.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the planes had covered a distance of more than 6,000 km (3,728 miles) in over eight hours from their home base in western Russia to deploy in Anadyr in the Chukotka region, which faces Alaska.

The flight was part of a tactical exercise that would last until the end of this week, it said, and was designed to rehearse the air force’s ability to rebase to operational air fields and to practise air-to-air refueling.

Footage released by the Defence Ministry showed the planes taking off in darkness and landing in daylight at an airfield set amid flat grassy terrain in the Russian far east.

The flight comes amid heightened tensions over arms control between Moscow and Washington. The United States withdrew from a landmark nuclear missile pact with Russia this month after determining that Moscow was violating that treaty, an accusation the Kremlin denied.

The U.S. ambassador to Moscow said earlier on Wednesday that another arms treaty, the last major nuclear pact between Russia and the United States, was outdated and flawed and could be scrapped when it expires in 2021 and replaced with something else.

And on Tuesday, the Kremlin boasted that it was winning the race to develop new cutting-edge nuclear weapons despite a mysterious rocket accident last week in northern Russia that killed at least five people and caused a brief spike in radiation levels.

“20 MINUTES FROM ALASKA”

Russian government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta said on its website on Wednesday that the TU-160s’ flight showed Moscow’s ability to base nuclear bombers within 20 minutes flight time from U.S. territory.

“The distance from Anadyr to Alaska is less than 600 km (372 miles) – for the TU-160 that takes 20 minutes including take-off and gaining altitude,” it said.

“Moreover the capabilities of the missiles which the plane carries would allow it to launch them without leaving Russian airspace. If necessary, the bombers’ first target could be radar stations and the positions of interceptor missiles which are part of the U.S. missile defense system.”

TU-160s, codenamed Blackjacks by NATO, have flown in the past from bases in Russia to Syria where they have bombed forces opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, one of Moscow’s closest Middle East allies.

The Defence Ministry said a total of around 10 TU-160 bombers and TU-95MS and IL-78 planes were involved in the exercise, suggesting it covered other areas too.

Russia is in the process of modernizing the TU-160. President Vladimir Putin last year praised the upgraded version after watching it in flight, saying it would beef up Russia’s nuclear weapons capability.

Ten of the modernized TU-160M nuclear bombers are due to be delivered to the Russian Air Force at a cost of 15 billion rubles ($227 million) each between now and 2027.

Tupolev, the plane’s manufacturer, says the modernized version will be 60 percent more effective than the older version with significant improvements to its weaponry, navigation and avionics.

A similar flight was made a year ago to Anadyr, where state media say the local airfield has been modernized to be able to receive bigger planes like the TU-160.

(Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Toby Chopra and Gareth Jones)

Putin to Trump: We’ll develop new nuclear missiles if you do

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia August 5, 2019. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

By Andrew Osborn and Polina Devitt

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Monday that Moscow would start developing short and intermediate-range land-based nuclear missiles if the United States started doing the same after the demise of a landmark arms control treaty.

The U.S. formally left the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia on Friday after determining that Moscow was violating the treaty and had already deployed one banned type of missile, an accusation the Kremlin denies.

The pact banned land-based missiles with a range of between 310 and 3,400 miles (500-5,500 km), reducing the ability of both countries to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.

Putin on Monday ordered the defense and foreign ministries and Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service to closely monitor any steps the U.S. takes to develop, produce or deploy missiles banned under the defunct treaty.

“If Russia obtains reliable information that the United States has finished developing these systems and started to produce them, Russia will have no option other than to engage in a full-scale effort to develop similar missiles,” Putin said in a statement.

U.S. officials have said the United States is months away from the first flight tests of an American intermediate-range missile that would serve as a counter to the Russians. Any deployment would be years away, they have said.

Putin issued his warning after holding a meeting with Russia’s Security Council to discuss the U.S. move, which Moscow had argued against for months, warning it would undermine a key pillar of international arms control.

Putin said Russia’s arsenal of air and sea-launched missiles combined with its work on developing hypersonic missiles meant it was well placed to offset any threat emanating from the United States for now.

But he said it was essential for Moscow and Washington, the world’s largest nuclear powers, to resume arms control talks to prevent what he described as an “unfettered” arms race breaking out.

“In order to avoid chaos with no rules, restrictions or laws, we need to once more weigh up all the dangerous consequences and launch a serious and meaningful dialogue free from any ambiguity,” Putin said.

Officials from President Donald Trump’s administration, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said Russia has deployed “multiple battalions” of a cruise missile throughout Russia in violation of the defunct pact, including in western Russia, “with the ability to strike critical European targets”.

Russia denies the allegation, saying the missile’s range put it outside the treaty and rejected a U.S. demand to destroy the new missile, the Novator 9M729, known as the SSC-8 by the NATO Western military alliance.

(Additional reporting by Tom Balmforth, Editing by Ed Osmond)

U.S. pulls out of Soviet-era nuclear missile pact with Russia

FILE PHOTO: A component of SSC-8/9M729 cruise missile system is on display during a news briefing, organized by Russian defence and foreign ministries, at Patriot Expocentre near Moscow, Russia January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

By Steve Holland and Andrew Osborn

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – The United States formally withdrew from a landmark nuclear missile pact with Russia on Friday after determining that Moscow was in violation of the treaty, something the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.

Washington signaled it would pull out of the arms control treaty six months ago unless Moscow stuck to the accord. Russia called the move a ploy to exit a pact the United States wanted to leave anyway in order to develop new missiles.

The 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was negotiated by then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

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

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

It banned land-based missiles with a range of between 310 and 3,400 miles (500-5,500 km), thus reducing both countries’ ability to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.

“The United States will not remain party to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement about the U.S. withdrawal.

“Russia’s non-compliance under the treaty jeopardizes U.S. supreme interests as Russia’s development and fielding of a treaty-violating missile system represents a direct threat to the United States and our allies and partners,” Pompeo said.

Senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Russia had deployed “multiple battalions” of a cruise missile throughout Russia in violation of the pact, including in western Russia, “with the ability to strike critical European targets.”

Russia denies the allegation, saying the missile’s range puts it outside the treaty. It has rejected a U.S. demand to destroy the new missile, the Novator 9M729, known as the SSC-8 by the NATO Western military alliance.

Moscow has told Washington its decision to quit the pact undermines global security and removes a key pillar of international arms control.

RUSSIAN RESPONSE

Russia said on Friday it had asked the United States for a moratorium on the deployment of land-based short and intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

“A serious mistake has been made in Washington,” Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

“We have already introduced a unilateral moratorium and won’t deploy land-based short or medium-range missiles, if we get them, in regions where such U.S. missiles are not deployed,” it said.

President Vladimir Putin says Russia does not want an arms race and he has promised he will not deploy Russian missiles unless the United States does so first.

However, should Washington take such a step, he says he would be forced to deploy Russian hypersonic nuclear missiles on ships or submarines near U.S. territorial waters.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg dismissed Russia’s moratorium request on Friday, saying it was “not a credible offer” as he said Moscow had already deployed illegal missiles.

“There are no new U.S. missiles, no new NATO missiles in Europe, but there are more and more new Russian missiles,” he said.

The dispute is aggravating the worst U.S.-Russia friction since the Cold War ended in 1991. Some experts believe the treaty’s collapse could undermine other arms control agreements and speed an erosion of the global system designed to block the spread of nuclear arms.

‘WE DON’T WANT A NEW ARMS RACE’

NATO said it had agreed a defensive package of measures to deter Russia. That response would be measured and would only involve conventional weapons, it said.

NATO’s Stoltenberg said there would be “no rash moves” by the alliance which he said “would not mirror what Russia does.”

“We don’t want a new arms race,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO members Britain and Poland blamed Moscow for the INF treaty’s demise.

“Their contempt for the rules-based international system threatens European security,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter.

European officials have voiced concern that if the treaty collapses, Europe could again become an arena for a nuclear-armed, intermediate-range missile buildup by the United States and Russia.

U.S. officials said the United States was months away from the first flight tests of an American intermediate-range missile that would serve as a counter to the Russians. Any deployment would be years away, they said.

“We are just at the stage of looking at how we might further the development of conventional options,” one official said.

The U.S. military plans to test a ground-launched cruise missile in the coming weeks and an intermediate-range ballistic missile in November, both of which would have been banned under the treaty.

But U.S. officials told Reuters that funding would run out for the tests without approval from Congress, where top Democrats have balked at Trump’s treaty pullout.

Trump has said he would like to see a “next-generation” arms control deal with Russia and China to cover all types of nuclear weapons, something Beijing has so far rejected.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland in WASHINGTON, Andrew Osborn in MOSCOW and Robin Emmott in BRUSSELS; Additional reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Jon Boyle, Peter Graff and Edmund Blair)