Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s team is making baseless allegations about Russian compliance with a Cold War-era arms control treaty, a Moscow diplomat insisted Wednesday.
"The Americans have failed to provide hard facts to substantiate their accusations,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, per state-run media. “They just cannot provide them, because such evidence essentially does not exist.”
State Department officials marked the 30th anniversary of a nuclear weapons deal last week by accusing Russia of violating the pact, through their deployment of intermediate-range cruise missiles. The charge was first leveled in 2014 by former President Barack Obama’s team, but it has been reiterated by the Trump administration and in Congress.
“Despite repeated U.S. efforts to engage the Russian Federation on this issue, Russian officials have so far refused to discuss the violation in any meaningful way or refute the information provided by the United States,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Friday.
Zakharova countered that the United States is being provocative.
"There are launching facilities that are capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles at the US missile defense base in Deveselu, Romania, which everybody can see,” she said. “The Pentagon plans to deploy the same systems to Poland in 2018, although their deployment ashore contravenes the INF Treaty.”
The State Department maintains the United States has not violated any terms of the pact but emphasized last week the Trump team will begin research on systems designed to counteract the Russian moves. Congress authorized $50 million for such projects as part of the latest defense spending bill.
“What we certainly cannot afford is to stand by like chumps while Vladimir Putin cheats on the INF Treaty openly and notoriously,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said in July. “Russia, as it always does, is consistently marshaling strategic advantage against the United States through a series of incremental provocations calculated to operate just below the threshold of retaliation. Deploying an intermediate-range cruise missile is perhaps the most provocative step as yet because it would eventually allow Russia to hold all our bases, all our troops, and all our allies in Eurasia at risk.”