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James Mattis: Russian development of new nuke-powered missile ‘untenable’

October 4, 2018

Russia’s pursuit of a new, nuclear-powered cruise missile is simply an unacceptable endeavor in the eyes of the U.S. and other NATO powers, with Washington and its European allies seriously weighing options on how to deter Moscow’s efforts, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said Thursday.

The Russian cruise missile weapons program was one of several issues Mr. Mattis and NATO colleagues debated during the defense ministerial at alliance headquarters in Brussels. The former four-star general was adamant in his comments after a series of meetings with alliance leaders that Russia’s new cruise missile program cannot continue.

“Make no mistake, the current situation with Russia in blatant violation of this treaty is untenable, and we discussed this situation at length during this ministerial meeting among trusted allies,” he told reporters during a press briefing. His comments came days after U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson said alliance members were prepared to take preemptive action against Russia, should the missile program continue.

“Counter measures [by the United States] would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty,” she said, adding NATO leaders were ostensibly prepared “to take out a [Russian] missile that could hit any of our countries” and that Moscow “is on notice.”

Alliance officials say the nuclear-powered cruise missile under development would allow Moscow to launch a ballistic weapon on targets inside Western Europe at a moment’s notice. Building and fielding such a weapon is in clear violation of several Cold War-era treaties agreed to by Russia and the West, foremost the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces or INF pact inked between the U.S. and Russia in 1987.

Russian diplomats and top military brass have repeatedly refuted such claims.

Mr. Mattis seemingly walked back some of Mrs. Hutchinson’s more inflammatory comments on Thursday, simply stating Washington was “is reviewing options in our diplomacy and defense posture to do just that in concert with our allies.”

The new, nuclear-powered cruise missile was one of several advanced weapons Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled during a March press conference, designed to showcase the former Soviet Union’s military prowess

“I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened,” the Russian leader said at the time.

“You have failed to contain Russia,” he added.

But the issue Russian military capability containment is not what has U.S. and NATO leaders concerned, it is Moscow’s repeated flaunting of international norms and agreements, Mr. Mattis said.

“For over four years, through two American administrations and repeated diplomatic dialogues, there have been attempts to bring Russia back into compliance,” the Pentagon chief said.

“The only explanation for what Russia has been doing is that they are in violation of the treaty, and our discussions here were to ensure that we answered all questions that any of the nations had, and that we look at what options do we have,” he added.

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