Jens Stoltenberg
© REUTERS / Joshua Roberts
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO is to discuss this week what it will do after the looming expiry of the INF Treaty, with its chief pinning the blame for the development on Russia. This charge prompted some name-calling from a senior Russian MP.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty will expire in six months after the US announced its withdrawal from the Cold War-era agreement in February. The Donald Trump administration claimed the move was due to Russia's non-compliance, a charge that Moscow denied. The US-favored narrative was reiterated by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as he was announcing that the alliance will be discussing what measures it will take after the treaty ceases.

"We call on Russia to take the responsible path, but unfortunately we have seen no indication that Russia intends to do so," he told the media during a press conference ahead of a two-day meeting of the defense ministers of member states.

"Our response will be defensive, measured and coordinated," he said.

Stoltenberg's insistence that the INF was scrapped because of Russia makes him an "irresponsible babbler," said Vladimir Shamanov, the chair of the Defense Committee of the Russian Parliament's lower chamber.

"We are not particularly interested in his opinion. President [Vladimir Putin] said clearly: Wherever American assets threatening Russia are deployed, we will respond. We will do exactly what they will be doing and we don't care what they will be doing in response to that," the Russian MP said.

The INF banned the US and Russia from developing and deploying land-based missiles with ranges of between 500km and 5,500km. Both sides had complained for years about the other not fully sticking to the agreement. The US, in particular, claimed that one of Russia's newer missiles was in violation of the pact despite Moscow's assurances to the contrary. The Trump administration cited this claim as the reason why it was withdrawing from the treaty, although it didn't bother to hide the fact that China's successes in developing land-based intermediate-range missiles was a significant factor in its decision.

During the conference, Stoltenberg repeatedly deflected inquiries by journalists about possible NATO policies when the INF Treaty is no more. He did say that no deployment of nuclear missiles on European soil was planned.

President Putin earlier promised that Russia will not create and deploy land-based intermediate-range missiles targeting European nations, unless NATO members do so. He also warned that Moscow will consider as legitimate military targets "centers where decisions are taken" to threaten Russian national security, without going into specifics.