Russian president Vladimir Putin warned that he will respond if the U.S. decides to station missiles in neighboring countries to Russia.
Putin made this challenge at his annual address to parliament on Wednesday. He said his country would not seek confrontation and Russia would not take the first step in deploying missiles since the suspension of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
But, he said Russia would respond to any deployment of new intermediate-range missiles in Europe by targeting not just the country itself, but the United States as well, according to a Reuters translation. He said he would field new weapons that would target U.S. decision-making centers.
Putin warned U.S. policymakers, some of whom he said were obsessed with U.S. exceptionalism, about being careful before taking new measures.
“It’s their right to think how they want. But can they count? I’m sure they can. Let them count the speed and the range of the weapons systems we are developing,” Putin said to applause, according to Reuters.
“Russia will be forced to create and deploy types of weapons which can be used not only in respect of those territories from which the direct threat to us originates, but also in respect of those territories where the centers of decision-making are located.”
The U.S. confirmed in early February that it would suspend its involvement in the decades-old INF treaty, which bans ground-launched medium-range missiles with a range of 310-3,400 miles. The U.S. administration said it had taken this position following Russia’s refusal to accept that its SSC-8 missile directly contravenes the Cold War-era agreement.
The next day, Putin reacted by also stopping his country’s obligations to the treaty. Putin said Russia would provide a “mirror like response” to the U.S. by engaging in fresh research and development for nuclear missile technology but would not “get involved in a costly arms race.”
This week, Putin rejected the U.S. claim that its withdrawal from the treaty was prompted by Russian violations of the pact, according to an Associated Press translation. The Russian president claimed that the U.S. had made false accusations to justify its decision to opt out of the pact and said the U.S. had breached the treaty itself.
Putin concluded by saying Russia would always make sure it is secure. He said the country would be ready for further talks on arms control but would not keep knocking on a locked door.