Moscow – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Russia would only deploy new intermediate-range missiles if the United States does and called for urgent arms control talks to prevent a chaotic arms race following the demise of a key nuclear pact.
Putin made his statements after the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty ended Friday, with the U.S. announcing its intention to test and deploy weapons previously banned by the 1987 accord.
Washington said it withdrew because of Russia’s alleged violations of the pact; Russia denies breaching the terms of the treaty.
Putin condemned the U.S. exit from the treaty “in a unilateral way and under a far-fetched reason,” saying that it “seriously exacerbated the situation in the world and raised fundamental risks for all.”
He said in a statement that Russia will carefully monitor Washington’s actions and respond in kind if it sees that the U.S. is developing and deploying new intermediate-range missiles.
The INF Treaty, which was signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, banned the production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles). Such weapons were seen as particularly destabilizing because of shorter time they take to reach targets compared to intercontinental ballistic missiles, raising the likelihood of a nuclear conflict over a false launch alert.
“If we receive reliable information that the U.S. has completed the development and launched production of the relevant systems, Russia will have to engage in full-scale development of similar missiles,” Putin said.
The U.S. has accused Russia of developing and deploying a cruise missile that violated provisions of the pact. Russia has denied the breach, and, in its turn, accused the U.S. of violations.
Putin noted that Russia for now will rely on its existing air-launched X-101 and Kinzhal missiles and the Kalibr missiles carried by submarines and navy ships, as well as prospective weapons, including the Zircon hypersonic missiles, to ensure its security.
He also reaffirmed Moscow’s earlier pledge not to deploy intermediate-range weapons until the U.S. places them near Russia’s borders.
“Our actions related to the development, production and deployment of ground-based intermediate-range missiles will be exclusively reciprocal and mirrored,” he said. “We will not deploy them until the U.S.-made intermediate-range missiles are deployed” in areas where they may threaten Russia.
A senior Russian lawmaker noted in comments carried by Russian news agencies that Putin’s statement was a warning to nations that agree to house American missiles.
“Those words were addressed to the U.S. allies,” Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russia’s parliament. “Those who would host the missiles would automatically and voluntarily make themselves targets for nuclear weapons.”
Putin also emphasized that the U.S. exit from the INF could pave the way for the demise of other arms control pacts and trigger an all-out arms race.
“In order to avoid chaos without any rules, restrictions and laws, it’s necessary to weigh all the dangerous consequences and start a serious dialogue without any ambiguities,” Putin said. “Russia considers it necessary to resume full-fledged talks on strategic stability and security without any delay.”