This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance’s defense ministers will meet this week to assess the challenge posed by Russia’s missile systems and discuss other issues including the allies’ support for Afghanistan.
The ministers will gather in Brussels on February 12 for two-day talks following the demise of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty last year that banned Russia and the United States from deploying land-based, short- and intermediate-range nuclear weapons.
Washington withdrew from the INF Treaty following years of accusations that Moscow had developed and deployed a ground-launched cruise missile in violation of the pact’s restrictions.
The move, reciprocated by Moscow, sparked concerns of a new arms race between the world’s leading nuclear-armed powers.
“NATO allies have stood united on Russia’s breach of the treaty” Stoltenberg told a press conference on February 11 as he outlined the topics up for discussion at the NATO ministers’ meeting.
The 9M729 missile, also known as the SSC-8, “is just one challenge we face,” he said. “So we will discuss our response to the whole range of Russian missile systems — conventional and nuclear — currently deployed or under development.”
Stoltenberg said the ministers will also discuss the future of NATO’s mission in Iraq “to help ensure [the Islamic State extremist group, or IS] cannot return” and consider “what more NATO can do in the wider region to build long-term stability and security.”
NATO and the U.S.-led coalition against IS have training missions aimed at building up Iraqi security forces. However, both missions were suspended over fears for regional stability after a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian commander in Baghdad last month.
U.S. President Donald Trump has called for the alliance’s mission to take on greater responsibility.
All nations contributing to NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan will also meet in Brussels, Stoltenberg said, insisting that the allies “fully support the efforts led by the United States to end the conflict and achieve a peaceful solution.”
The defense ministers will also meet with their Ukrainian counterpart to review the country’s reforms and NATO support.