US Threatens to Destroy Russian Warheads if Necessary - Envoy to NATO

© Photo : Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation / Go to the mediabankInter-missile launch from Sary Shagan testing ground. Still frame taken from a video courtesy of the Russian Defense Ministry
Inter-missile launch from Sary Shagan testing ground. Still frame taken from a video courtesy of the Russian Defense Ministry - Sputnik International
According to US Permanent Representative to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison, Russia has to halt its development of new 9M729 nuclear-capable missiles.

"It is time now for Russia to come to the table and stop the violations," Hutchison told reporters in Brussels, where US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will later meet his NATO counterparts.

She also noted that the US has no intentions of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), adding, however, that it could occur because of Russia.

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"There will come a point in the future in which America will determine that it has to move forward with a development phase that is not allowed by the treaty right now," Hutchison said.

Earlier in the day, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged Russia to be more transparent and to explain its alleged breaches of the INF Treaty.

Tensions and Accusations

Addressing the NATO stance on the INF, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned about the perils of "aggressive rhetoric."

"It seems people who make such statements do not realize the degree of their responsibility and the danger of aggressive rhetoric. Who authorized the lady to make such statements? The American people? Do ordinary people in the United States know that the so-called diplomats paid out of their pocket behave aggressively and destructively?" Zakharova told reporters.

The US Congress building. (File) - Sputnik International
Foul Play: US Violates INF Accord, But Blames Russia For It
The 1987 INF Treaty prohibits the development, deployment, and testing of ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles. Moscow and Washington have repeatedly accused each other of violating the treaty.

According to the US, the new Russian 9M729 missile systems violate the conditions of the pact, as they give Russia the possibility of launching a nuclear strike in Europe with little or no notice.

READ MORE: Neither Russia Nor US Interested in Undermining INF Treaty — Russian FM

Russia's Foreign Ministry has said that the 9M729 missiles correspond to Russia's obligations under the INF Treaty and have not been upgraded and tested for the prohibited ranges. Moscow also noted that Washington had never provided any evidence that Russia had violated the agreement because such proof does not exist.

Earlier in July, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that the United States is violating the treaty by deploying in Europe missile defense systems with launchers, which might be used for firing Tomahawk cruise missiles.

New Prospects for Macedonia in NATO

Hutchison also commented on the recent referendum in Macedonia, which settled a decades-long conflict with Greece, allowing Skopje to enter NATO.

"We are very pleased that they got over a 90 percent vote in the referendum that they had, and we now look to the people of Macedonia and the Parliament to take the next step and we hope to welcome Macedonia, Northern Macedonia, as a new member of our alliance in the near future," the US envoy said.

People protest marching through a street in Skopje, Macedonia, on Thursday, March 2, 2017 - Sputnik International
US Interprets Failed Macedonia Vote as Approving Name Change, Urges Compliance
Earlier on Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that accession talks have already started and negotiations to make Macedonia part of NATO could be completed by January 2019.

According to the Sunday referendum, 91.46% of voters chose to rename the country, while 5.65% voted against the agreement with Greece. However, the turnout amounted to just 36.91%, meaning that the referendum failed to secure the 50% turnout needed to be valid. Despite this, the country's prime minister, Zoran Zaev, supported the results and pledged to proceed with ratifying the agreement.

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