Putin says Russia may resume global deployment of intermediate range missiles

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Photo: GettyImages/AFP

By Guy Faulconbridge and Dmitry Antonov Reuters

President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia should resume production of intermediate and shorter range nuclear-capable missiles and then consider where to deploy them after the United States brought similar missiles to Europe and Asia.

Putin’s move finally kills off all that remains from one of the most significant arms controls treaties of the Cold War amid fears that the world’s two biggest nuclear powers could be entering a new arms race together with China.

The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in 1987, marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals and eliminated a whole category of nuclear weapons.

The United States under former President Donald Trump formally withdrew from the INF Treaty in 2019 after saying that Moscow was violating the accord, an accusation the Kremlin repeatedly denied and dismissed as a pretext.

Russia then imposed a moratorium on its own development of missiles previously banned by the INF treaty – ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 km to 5,500 km.

Putin said Russia had pledged not to deploy such missiles but that the United States had resumed their production, brought them to Denmark for exercises and also taken them to the Philippines.

“We need to respond to this and make decisions about what we will have to do in this direction next,” Putin was shown on state television telling Russia’s Security Council.

“Apparently, we need to start manufacturing these strike systems and then, based on the actual situation, make decisions about where – if necessary to ensure our safety – to place them,” he said.

DISINTEGRATION

Russia and the United States, by far the biggest nuclear powers, have both expressed regret about the disintegration of the tangle of arms control treaties which sought to slow the Cold War arms race and reduce the risk of nuclear war.

Trump in 2018 said he wanted to terminate the INF Treaty because of what he said were years of Russian violations and his concerns about China’s intermediate-range missile arsenal.

Putin has said in the past that the U.S. withdrawal would trigger a new arms race.

The United States publicly blamed Russia’s development of the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, known in NATO as the SSC-8, as the reason for it leaving the INF Treaty.

In his moratorium proposal, Putin suggested Russia could agree not to deploy the missiles in its Baltic coast exclave of Kaliningrad. Since leaving the pact, the United States has tested missiles with a similar profile.

Putin said earlier this month he could deploy conventional missiles within striking distance of the United States and its European allies if they allowed Ukraine to strike deeper into Russia with long-range Western weapons.

In his comments on Friday, Putin gave no indication of where the missiles could be deployed.

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