Agencies (Qasioun) - The U.S. ambassador to NATO set off alarm bells Tuesday when she suggested that the United States might “take out” Russian missiles that U.S. officials say violate a landmark arms control treaty.
Although Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison’s comments were somewhat ambiguous, arms control experts said they could be interpreted to mean a preemptive strike. Such a move could lead to nuclear war.
Only after the comments drew a furious response from the Russian Foreign Ministry did Hutchison clarify on Twitter that she “was not talking about preemptively striking Russia.” But the diplomatic damage was already done.
“The impression is that people making such claims are unaware of the degree of their responsibility and the danger of aggressive rhetoric,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters, the Interfax news agency reported. “Who authorized this lady to make such allegations? The American people? Do ordinary Americans know that they are paying out of their pockets for so-called diplomats who behave so aggressively and destructively?”
Asked during a news conference at NATO headquarters what the United States might do about a new class of Russian missiles that appear to violate the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Hutchison said, “The countermeasures would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty.”
Before Hutchison clarified her position, more than nine hours after her initial remarks, it was unclear whether she meant that the United States would target Russia’s banned missile installations if Moscow doesn’t come back into compliance, or whether she was warning that the United States would enhance its missile defenses so it could take out any banned missiles Russia decided to launch at U.S. or allied targets. The United States currently has limited ability to defend against cruise missile threats.
“The question was what would you do if this continues to a point where we know that they are capable of delivering” the banned missiles, Hutchison said. “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 treaty, which the United States and the Soviet Union signed in 1987, prohibits the production and deployment of nuclear and conventional missiles that fly from 500 to 5,500 kilometers. It applies to ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles.
NATO defense ministers plan to address the alleged Russian violations at a Brussels meeting on Wednesday and Thursday.
Russia denied violating the treaty, moreover, Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control scholar at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey commented “She does threaten preemption. She just didn’t mean it,”
“Welcome to NATO! You have one job: to not start nuclear war with Russia,” he joked. “As an expert, I am used to politicians, including politicians who have been appointed as ambassadors, badly mangling simple things. So my default assumption was that she was badly mangling pretty common talking points.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters “This treaty is in danger because of Russia’s actions, All allies agree that the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the treaty. It is therefore urgent that Russia addresses these concerns in a substantial and transparent manner.”
Source: Washington Post