Moscow Calls on US to Withdraw Nukes from European Territory
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The Russian Foreign Ministry has called on the United States to withdraw nuclear weapons from European territory.
The statement comes in the wake of a media report, saying that the US is planning to spend approximately $214 million on upgrading and building military structures and installations on its airbases in Eastern Europe, Norway and Iceland as part of a "deterrence" initiative against Russia.
"Russia returned all its nuclear weapons to its national territory. We believe that the same should have been done by the American side a long time ago," Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control at the Russian Foreign Ministry, told Sputnik.
However, according to him, Washington "continues to keep, according to estimates, up to two hundred aviation bombs in Europe."
"And they plan to modernize them in such a way that they become, according to a number of retired US military, 'more suitable for use' due to increased accuracy and reduction of destructive power. If it really is meant to place an additional number of nuclear warheads in Europe beyond what is available, this can only aggravate the situation," Ulyanov said.
Moscow's statement comes in the wake of a report by the Air Force Times newspaper, saying that the US is planning to spend approximately $214 million on upgrading and building military structures and installations on its airbases in Eastern Europe, Norway and Iceland as part of the so-called European Deterrence Initiative (EDI).
While the EDI, formerly known as the European Reassurance Initiative initiated under the pretext of the Ukrainian crisis that erupted in 2014, which specifically implies the deployment of 3,000-5,000 NATO soldiers and equipment to European countries along Russia's borders to "deter" Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly criticized the alliance's buildup in eastern Europe, saying that it was provocative and could lead to regional and global destabilization.
In 2016, NATO decided to approve sending four multinational battalions to each of the Baltic states — namely Lithvania, Latvia and Estonia — and Poland.
Most recently, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance would maintain increased presence in the Baltic states and Eastern Europe "as long as necessary" after the alliance's members had agreed on instituting a new adaptive command structure to improve the alliance’s ability "to improve the movement of military forces across Europe."
Speaking about Pyongyang's nuclear issue, the diplomat stated, "Russia is in favor of making the CTBT [Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty] universal. We call on all states, on which its entry into force depends, to sign and ratify this agreement, as we did many years ago. This fully applies to North Korea, as well as to the US and six other countries, especially since its joining the treaty is an indispensable condition for the entry of this agreement into force."
At the same time, according to Ulyanov, it is currently unrealistic to hope that North Korea will do so, because "Pyongyang considers its growing nuclear potential as a means to deter US hostile policies."
"It can be assumed that this issue will be resolved only within the framework of the settlement of the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula," Foreign Ministry's official added.
North Korea, which explains its nuclear program by the need to defend itself from the US, conducted its so far most successful nuclear test in September, prompting the UN to adopt a resolution imposing more sanctions on Pyongyang.
Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have repeatedly emphasized that Moscow opposes North Korea's possession of nukes, while calling on the parties involved to resort to diplomacy in order to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula that have further escalated this year amid Pyongyang's repeated missile launches, with the latest taking place on November 28, when the DPRK tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) yet, known as the Hwasong-15, capable of reaching any target within the mainland United States.
Amid the further deterioration of the situation on the Korean Peninsula this summer, Russia and China have proposed the so-called "double freeze" plan aimed at settling the crisis that urges Pyongyang to stop nuclear tests, while calling on Washington and Seoul to refrain from joint drills. While Moscow and Beijing have emphasized that the proposal is still on the table, the US has already rejected the plan.