MOSCOW • Russia will develop missiles now banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty if the United States exits the arms control pact and starts making such weapons, President Vladimir Putin has said.
The US delivered Russia a 60-day ultimatum on Tuesday to come clean about what Washington says is a violation of the 1987 nuclear arms control treaty, saying it would be forced to start a six-month process of withdrawal if nothing changes.
Mr Putin, in televised comments yesterday, accused the US of blaming Russia for violations as a pretext for Washington to exit the pact.
Mr Putin noted that many countries produce missiles banned under the INF treaty, but that Moscow and Washington had undertaken to limit themselves with the accord signed in 1987.
"Now it seems our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that the United States must also have such a weapon. What's our response? It's simple: In that case, we will also do this," he said.
Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov warned yesterday that Russia will target countries hosting US missiles if Washington goes ahead with plans to pull out of the landmark Cold War treaty. "If the INF treaty is destroyed, we won't leave it without a response," he said in a presentation to foreign military attaches in Moscow, according to an official transcript. "You, as military professionals, must understand that the target for Russian retaliation won't be US territory but the countries where the intermediate-range missiles are deployed."
The US has said it has no plans to deploy land-based nuclear missiles in Europe once it pulls out of the treaty. In the past, Russia has threatened to target European countries that hosted US missile defences.
Earlier yesterday, the defence ministry said it has deployed laser weapons, one of several systems Mr Putin touted as a new generation of armaments during his annual address in March.
The Peresvet laser, named after a 14th-century Orthodox monk who fought in single combat against a Tatar champion at the Battle of Kulikovo, was deployed by the army on Dec 1, the ministry said in an e-mailed statement.
Mr Putin in March described the new arms as Russia's response to the US decision in 2002 to pull out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and develop its global defence shield. While Peresvet's technical specifications are secret, military experts say it can be used against drones, missiles and aircraft.