US NATO Ambassador Warns Of Military Strike If Russia Doesn’t Halt Development Of Banned Missile

Tatyana Zenkovich/Pool via REUTERS

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The U.S. would resort to a military strike if Russia doesn’t stop development of a cruise missile that is banned under a landmark Cold War treaty, Washington’s envoy to NATO said Tuesday.

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, Kay Bailey Hutchison warned that Washington would “take out” an intermediate-range cruise missile system known as the 9M729 if a diplomatic resolution cannot be reached.

“Getting them to withdraw [the missile] would be our choice, of course,” Hutchison said, according to Reuters. “But I think the question was what would you do if this continues to a point where we know that they are capable of delivering. And at that point we would then be looking at a capability to take out a missile that could hit any of our countries in Europe and hit America in Alaska.”

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty prohibits bans all land-based cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. NATO believes Russia’s 9M729 missile system violates the pact, which was intended to limit Moscow’s first-strike capability against targets in Europe and Alaska.

Hutchison’s comments marked a rare public warning of a preemptive strike against Russia’s ballistic missile infrastructure. Administration officials had previously said the U.S. would consider developing its own intermediate-range system if Russia continued to violate the INF agreement.

Washington and Moscow celebrated the 30th anniversary of the INF pact in Geneva last year, but the U.S. later accused Russia of violating the treaty when it reportedly moved intermediate-range missiles to the exclave of Kaliningrad, easily in range of NATO countries. Moscow has countered with accusations that U.S. missile defense systems in Eastern Europe violate the agreement. (RELATED: ‘You Will Listen To Us Now’: Putin Reveals New Nuclear Weapons As Arms Race Heats Up)

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he will raise the issue of Russian missile development during a meeting with NATO defense ministers on Wednesday.

“I cannot forecast where it will go, it is a decision for the president, but I can tell you that both on Capitol Hill and in State Department, there is a lot of concern about this situation and I’ll return with the advice of our allies and engage in that discussion to determine the way ahead,” Mattis told reporters in Paris on Tuesday.

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