Washington’s decision to drop out of the INF has fueled speculation about the return of a full-blown, Cold-War style nuclear arms race, as Russia has reflexively threatened to build up its tactical defenses along Europe’s periphery in the face of what’s expected to be a buildup of American intermediate-range arms.
But whatever happens between the two nuclear superpowers, Germany wants no part of it.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned this week that the US better not be thinking about stationing its intermediate-range missiles in Germany – or anywhere in Europe, for that matter. For the last 30 years, the treaty has prohibited stationing intermediate-range arms in Europe. Any push to change that would almost certainly be met with “widespread resistance” in Germany, Maas said, so as to avoid a scenario where Europe is put in the middle of a tug-of-war between Russia and the US.
Quoted by the RT, in an interview with German news agency DPA, Maas said that “the deployment of new medium-range missiles would meet with widespread resistance in Germany.”
The US is set to quit the 30-year-old INF treaty with Russia, which has been preventing Washington from stationing such missiles in Europe. Both countries accuse each other of violating the treaty, and both deny any wrongdoing on their own part.
“By no means should Europe become the scene of a debate on weapons build-up,” Maas said.
Deploying nuclear weapons in response to supposed treaty violations is Cold War-era logic, the German diplomat believes.
“Nuclear armament is certainly the wrong answer,” he said.
The US announced in October that it planned to withdraw from the treaty after accusing Russia of repeatedly violating its terms (though the looming military threat posed by China, which isn’t bound by the treaty, was widely speculated to be an ulterior motive for the decision to withdraw). Earlier this month, the US warned Russia that it would have 60 days to comply with the treaty to prevent the US from quitting.
Russia, in turn, has accused the US of violating the treaty:
The US is accusing Russia of building missiles prohibited by the INF treaty, while Moscow says American missile defense systems already stationed in Eastern Europe can easily be converted into offensive ballistic missile launchers.
But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov insinuated that the US’s “final offer” is merely a face-saving pretext, as Washington already informed the Kremlin that the decision to withdraw was final, and would not be reversed.
And in the latest sign that the US’s decision to kill INF would have wide-ranging repercussions for national security, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his marathon end-of-year press conference that “there are no talks” so far between the US and Russia to renew the New START arms control treaty, another landmark arms control measure, which is set to expire in 2021.