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British Defense Chief tells Russia to stop ‘trying to goad’ West

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis meets with the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Aug. 7, 2018. (Air Force Master Sgt. Angelita M. Lawrence/Department of Defense)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Britain’s defense minister has accused Russia of “trying to goad the West into a new arms race” and he urged Moscow to reset its relations with the West through dialogue.

Gavin Williamson, speaking at the Munich Security Conference on February 15, stressed the importance of NATO, saying it “matters more today, because an old adversary is very much back in the game.”

Moscow, he said, had breached the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and was “trying to goad the West into a new arms race it simply is not interested in and does not want, making the world a less safe place.”

On February 2, the United States launched the six-month process of leaving the INF Treaty, after Washington and NATO repeatedly accused Moscow of violating the accord by developing the 9M729 cruise missile, also known as the SSC-8.

Russia, which denies the accusation, said it was also withdrawing from the INF Treaty, which bans both countries from developing, producing, and deploying ground-launched cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

U.S. officials have said Russia could save the INF by returning to compliance, but Moscow made clear it has no plans to scrap the 9M729.

Still, Williamson extended to Russia the possibility of improved relations.

“Please, let me be clear: this is not the relationship with Russia that we want…. We remain open to a different kind of relationship and the option of dialogue will always remain on the table,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to speak at the conference on February 16.