MOSCOW, Russia - Moscow this week threw down the gauntlet to the United States over what it describes as flagrant breaches of the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) treaty, which the U.S. and Russia have vowed to withdraw from.
On Wednesday Russia's defence ministry summoned the U.S. military attache at the U.S. embassy in Moscow and handed him a list of what Moscow says are breaches of the long-standing agreement signed by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the head of the Soviet Union at the time Mikhail Gorbachev.
Russia says the United States has been in breach of the INF treaty for years and has called on the U.S. to destroy its cruise missile launchpads, target-missiles and attack drones to comply with the INF.
Russia has vowed to abandon the INF treaty in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to do so, within six months.
Russia however has suggested the U.S. "return to full compliance," to enable the treaty to survive.
To do this, the ministry says the U.S. must "destroy its Mk-41 universal launchers, designed for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles and target missiles," which it says have the same specifications as ground-based medium- and shorter-range ballistic missiles prohibited by the INF.
The U.S. attack drones should also be disposed of because they fall under the definition of "land-based cruise missiles" in the treaty, the ministry said.
The United States has said it is pulling out of the long-standing agreement because of breaches by Russia. Its decision has been supported by NATO.
Both sides say they will rescind their decision to withdraw from the pact provided the other side returns to full compliance.
Russia meantime, on Wednesday denied it was in breach, saying it "categorically denies groundless claims of Russia violating its obligations under the treaty."
"The U.S. accusations are false," Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov (pictured), the ministry's spokesman, said Wednesday.
Meantime military contractors in the United States are reviewing plans for a range of weapons prohibited under the treaty that may now be in demand.
The abandonment of the INF is likely to lead to an arms race which will be a shot in the arm for the U.S. military-industrial complex.