Putin to Trump: We’ll develop new nuclear missiles if you do

Updated August 06, 2019

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The United States formally left the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia on Friday. —AFP/File
The United States formally left the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia on Friday. —AFP/File

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Monday that Moscow would be forced to start developing short and intermediate-range land-based nuclear missiles if the United States started doing so after the demise of a landmark arms control treaty.

The United States formally left the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia on Friday after determining that Moscow was violating the treaty and had already deployed at least one banned type of missile, an accusation the Kremlin denies.

The pact banned land-based missiles with a range of between 310 and 3,400 miles (500-5,500 km), reducing the ability of both countries to launch a nuclear strike on short notice.

Putin on Monday held a meeting with his Security Council after which he ordered the defence and foreign ministries and Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service to closely monitor any steps the United States took to develop, produce or deploy missiles banned under the defunct 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.

In the meantime, he said Russia’s arsenal of air and sea-launched missiles combined with its work on developing hypersonic missiles meant it was well placed to offset any threat emanating from the United States.

It was now essential, he added, for Moscow and Washington to resume arms control talks to prevent what he described as an “unfettered” arms race breaking out.

“In order to avoid chaos with no rules, restrictions or laws, we need to once more weigh up all the dangerous consequences and launch a serious and meaningful dialogue free from any ambiguity,” Putin said.

Putin issued his statement after the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty came to an end Friday with the US announcing its intention to test and deploy weapons previously banned by the treaty.

Washington said its withdrawal had been caused by Russian violations of the pact, the claim that Russia has denied.

Putin condemned the US 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 US is developing and deploying new intermediate-range missiles.

The INF Treaty, which was signed by US 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 kilometres. Such weapons were seen as particularly destabilising 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.

The US 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 US 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.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2019