October 22, 2018 / 11:04 PM / 23 days ago

'Don't throw baby out with bath water,' Germany tells U.S. on INF treaty

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany will seek NATO’s help to maintain a nuclear arms treaty between Russia and the United States, and is ready to take action to force Moscow to comply with the pact, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump said on Saturday that Washington would withdraw from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty because Russia was violating it, an accusation Moscow denies.

Maas told the Funke Mediengruppe newspaper chain that Germany would fight with “all diplomatic means” to keep alive the 1987 pact, which rid Europe of land-based nuclear missiles, noting it touched on existential European interests.

“We will put the issue high on the NATO agenda,” he said. “We are ready to work with Russia to force its compliance with the INF. We are not ready to set off a new arms race.”

Russia said on Monday it was ready to work on addressing mutual grievances with the way that the treaty is being implemented.

Maas said he understood Washington’s disquiet after years of Russia’s failure to address reports it was violating the treaty. “The American frustration is not unfounded. But that should not result in throwing the baby out with the bath water. That would be a huge mistake,” he said.

Signed by then-President Ronald Reagan and reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the INF treaty required the elimination of all short-range and intermediate-range land-based nuclear and conventional missiles held by both countries in Europe.

Gorbachev, now 87, has warned that unraveling it could have catastrophic consequences.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by David Stamp

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