MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Thursday that a nuclear missile crisis between Moscow and Washington was unavoidable without measures to ensure restraint and predictability, the TASS news agency reported.
The remark by foreign ministry official Vladimir Ermakov came a day after the United States and NATO formally responded to Russian security proposals in ways that the Kremlin said failed to address its key concerns but left open the possibility for further dialogue.
Ermakov said that NATO was capable of rapidly deploying nuclear weapons that would be able to strike strategic targets in Russia.
"We continue to insist it is a priority to reach a principled understanding that the problems in this area must be urgently addressed. Otherwise, new 'missile crises' are unavoidable," he was quoted as saying.
Russia's security package, presented in December, included a proposal that it and the West should refrain from deploying short or intermediate-range (INF) nuclear missiles that could hit each other's territories.
Ermakov said Moscow thought the United States was making preparations to deploy short or intermediate-range missiles to Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
"We insist NATO's 'joint nuclear missions' must immediately be stopped, all the American nuclear arms returned to the United States, and the infrastructure that allows it to ensure a rapid deployment liquidated," Ermakov was quoted as saying.
Moscow, which has built up tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine, has warned of a possible "military-technical" response if its demands are not taken seriously, a threat some observers think could involve missile deployments.
The deployment of land-based INF missiles had been banned under a 1987 U.S.-Soviet arms control pact, but Washington exited the treaty in 2019, accusing Moscow of flouting it, an allegation Russia denied.
(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov; writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)