By Ryan Browne and Frederik Pleitgen, CNN
Updated 3:31 PM EDT, Tue October 02, 2018
(CNN) The United States Permanent Representative to NATO, Amb. Kay Bailey Hutchison, warned Tuesday that the US could „take out“ Russian missiles that are perceived to be in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty should Moscow continue to violate the agreement.
„We have been trying to send a message to Russia for several years that we know they are violating the treaty. We have shown Russia the evidence that we have, that they are violating the treaty,“ Hutchison said, according to a US NATO mission transcript of a press conference on the sidelines of the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in Brussels.
„They are building a medium-range ballistic missile in violation of the INF. That is a fact which we have proven,“ she added.
Asked what type of countermeasures the US and NATO would pursue in the face of the Russian violation, Hutchison said „the countermeasures would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty.“
„Getting them to withdraw would be our choice, of course. But I think the question was what would you do if this continues to a point where we know that they are capable of delivering. 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,“ she added.
Later on Tuesday Hutchinson said she „was not talking about preemptively striking Russia“ when she said the US would have to „take out“ the Russian missiles.
„I was not talking about preemptively striking Russia. My point: (Russia) needs to return to INF Treaty compliance or we will need to match its capabilities to protect US & NATO interests. The current situation, with (Russia) in blatant violation, is untenable,“ Hutchinson wrote on Twitter.
Prior to Hutchison’s tweet Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded forcefully, saying Hutchison behaved „aggressively and destructively“ by making the comments.
„It seems as if people who make such statements do not realize the level of their responsibility and the danger of such aggressive rhetoric,“ Zakharova told CNN.
„Who authorized this lady to make such statements? The American people? Do the ordinary people in the USA know what the so-called diplomats, who are getting paid with the money from [ordinary people’s] pockets, behave themselves so aggressively and destructively?“ Zakharova added.
„It is very easy to break and crush everything. It is hard to repair and restore. US diplomacy will have to do a lot in order to fix the aftermath of their mistakes. As for the essence of the matter, our military experts will give an expanded response,“ she added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN the Kremlin „prefers not to pay extra attention to statements by ambassadors while we have too many uncertainties with the messages on the higher level.“
The 1987 treaty limits the types of missiles that the US and Russia can deploy.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday that NATO remained „concerned about Russia’s lack of respect for its international commitments, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.“
„After years of denials, Russia recently acknowledged the existence of a new missile system, called 9M729. Russia has not provided any credible answers on this new missile. All Allies agree that the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the Treaty,“ he added