This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The Russian newspaper Kommersant is reporting that President Vladimir Putin has sent a proposal to NATO calling for a moratorium on deploying short- and medium-range missiles in Europe.
The proposal, which the paper said was transmitted on September 19, comes as fears mount of an accelerating arms race following the collapse of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
The 32-year-old treaty unraveled earlier this year after Washington formally withdrew from it following years of accusations that Moscow had developed, then deployed, a ground-launched cruise missile in violation of the treaty’s restrictions.
Russia, which long denied the accusations, then withdrew from the treaty itself.
Putin’s letter, which Kommersant said on September 25 was also sent to China and European Union officials, called for a moratorium on deploying such weapons, and it also suggested a new verification system — something that was at the crux of the INF dispute.
“I would like to note that the implementation of such a scheme will require additional verification measures, especially in conditions where launchers for medium-range missiles are already located in Europe,” Kommersant quoted the letter as saying. “We are ready to discuss relevant technical aspects.”
Earlier, Putin announced that Russia would deploy INF-violating missiles to Europe only if the United States did first. Western officials, however, have dismissed that, saying that the Russian missile in question — known as the 9M729 — has already been deployed to units positioned in parts of Russia’s European territories.
“Russian officials are proposing a moratorium on deploying [such missiles], while at the same time they’re already deploying such weapons. This is nonsense,” an unnamed NATO diplomat was quoted by Kommersant as saying.
The demise of the INF, and the nascent arms race, has also fueled fears of other major arms-control treaties collapsing, such as the New START, a broader, more comprehensive agreement that is set to expire in 2021 unless Moscow and Washington agree to extend it.