Both sides failed to make significant progress on saving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty or INF in talks at the military alliance's headquarters in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the chances of a resolution were
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the chances of a resolution were "going down, day by day" but that NATO had not given up on trying to convince Moscow to destroy the SSC-8 ground-launched cruise missile. (AP)

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned on Friday that the chances of saving a landmark Cold War arms treaty were decreasing day by day, after talks with Russian officials failed to yield any breakthrough. 

"We didn't see any sign of Russia being willing to come back into compliance with the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty," Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels after the meeting, adding that the "ongoing Russian violation" was the only reason the treaty was under threat.

He said there was still time to save it, pointing to the speed with which Soviet forces were able to get rid of their medium-range weapons after the INF was signed.

"Back in 1987 Russia was able to destroy intermediate range cruise missiles in a few weeks," he said.

"It is possible to do it in a few weeks because that has happened before."

US, allies 'shifting blame' on Russia

The Russian mission to NATO said in a statement that they had used the meeting to say "that attempts to shift the blame on Russia for the demise of the INF were unjustified," calling for restraint and warning of the "real risks" the situation posed.

"We confirmed that in our planning ... we are not intended to deploy corresponding missile systems in Europe and other regions unless the US intermediate- and shorter-range missiles are deployed there," the mission said in a statement.

Washington will definitively quit the deal on August 2 unless Russia destroys a controversial new missile system the US and NATO say breaches the accord, signed in 1987 between US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

NATO held talks with senior Russian officials as part of efforts to save the deal, a week after alliance defence ministers agreed to a package of counter-measures in case Moscow ignores the deadline.

Cornerstone of global arms control

The INF, which banned ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres, is seen as a cornerstone of the global arms control architecture and its looming demise has triggered fears for the future of the New START, a treaty which caps nuclear warhead numbers.

Alliance ministers last week agreed to review air and missile defences, along with intelligence and surveillance programmes, to boost their readiness to deal with the threat posed by Russia's new 9M729 ground-launched cruise missiles.

Stoltenberg refused to give further details of the measures on Friday, saying NATO was still focused on trying to save the deal, but he said the alliance's existing ballistic missile defence shield would not be capable of shooting down Russian missiles.

Moscow suspended participation in the INF Treaty in March after US President Donald Trump's White House announced it would ditch the agreement for alleged Russian violations of the terms.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 3 signed into law a bill on the suspension of the crucial arms control treaty.

Agreement expires in 2021

The INF deal resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals, but put no restrictions on other major military actors such as China.

Together with key arms control agreement New START, the INF was considered a cornerstone of global security.

The agreement, which caps the number of nuclear warheads held by Washington and Moscow, expires in 2021.

Putin has said he is ready to drop New START too, accusing Washington of being unwilling to negotiate an extension to the agreement.

Putin said at the G20 summit in Japan that Russian and US foreign ministers would begin talks over extending New START even though it was not clear whether they would be successful.

Source: AFP