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Putin to US: We will develop missiles if you do

August 6, 2019

After the demise of the INF arms control treaty last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed that any development of intermediate-range missiles by the US would be reciprocated. He called for dialogue.

Russland Wladimir Putin
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Zemlianichenko

On Monday, President Vladimir Putin called for talks to prevent an arms race with the US while warning that Russia would respond to any development of intermediate-range missiles by developing new missiles of its own.

Putin's warning comes after the United States formally exited the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty on Friday. He said the US's decision "raised fundamental risks for all," and ordered Russia's Foreign and Defense ministries to closely monitor any US action toward developing or deploying missiles previously banned under the INF treaty.

"If Russia obtains reliable information that the United States has finished developing these systems and started to produce them, Russia will have no option other than to engage in a full-scale effort to develop similar missiles," Putin said in a statement.

Read more: INF treaty withdrawal a disastrous gamble

Dialogue vs. deployment 

When the US announced in February that it would withdraw from the INF treaty, officials said they would give Russia six months to destroy all "launchers and associated equipment."  The Kremlin denies having deployed missiles banned under the treaty.

Reaffirming his statements, Putin said Russia would not deploy missiles unless the United States put its in areas that "may threaten Russia." 

"Our actions related to the development, production and deployment of ground-based intermediate-range missiles will be exclusively reciprocal and mirrored," Putin said.

Putin also said dialogue between the countries would be essential to prevent a new arms race. 

"Russia considers it necessary to resume full-fledged talks on strategic stability and security without any delay," Putin said.

INF information

Armed and dangerous

The INF was a landmark accord struck in 1987 to prevent an arms race between the US and the Soviet Union by banning the production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (300-3,300 miles).

The weapons are considered to be particularly threatening, as they take a shorter time to reach targets, raising the risk of a false launch. 

Read more: Russia's Vladimir Putin warns about growing threat of nuclear war

The United States and NATO allies have accused Moscow of violating the treaty with missile installations that could threaten targets in Europe. The US has claimed that the treaty allowed Russia an unfair military advantage. 

The Trump administration also claimed that the INF treaty made the US military less competitive with China's in Asia, which is not bound by treaty from developing intermediate-range missiles. 

Now that the United States is formally out of the treaty, officials say they intend to test and deploy weapons previously banned under the accord. US officials say, however, that any test flights of new missiles are months away and deployment may take several years. 

wmr/mkg (Reuters, AP)

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