Austria expressed concern on Friday at the “threat” hanging over Europe as a result of the demise of the INF treaty, calling on Moscow and Washington to make a voluntary commitment not to deploy medium-range nuclear missiles on the continent.
Europe must not become the theatre of a new arms race, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said, shortly after the two world powers brought an end of the INF (Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty, concluded at the end of the Cold War.
“The end of the INF Treaty represents a threat to the security of Europe,” stressed the diplomat, calling for “a voluntary declaration from both sides on the non-deployment in Europe of medium-range land-based missiles.”
Austria, a neutral country, is one of the nations behind the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which none of the nuclear powers have signed on to.
“An international prohibition is a condition for achieving a world without nuclear weapons and this text represents an important signal against the dangerous trend towards rearmament, symbolised by the end of the INF Treaty, Schallenberg said.
Following the expiry of an ultimatum issued by Washington, Russia declared the INF Treaty officially dead on Friday, accusing the U.S. of being responsible for its demise. Moscow also renewed its proposal to refrain from deploying missiles banned by the Cold War agreement, if Washington did the same.
In the 1987 INF agreement, the two superpowers committed to destroying all their ballistic missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,000 km, a gesture considered at the time a major step forward in the area of disarmament.