Following in the footsteps of the U.S., Russia will abandon a centerpiece nuclear arms treaty but will only deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles if Washington does so, the Russian President, Mr. Vladimir Putin, said on Saturday.
The U.S. President, Mr. Donald Trump, has accused Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with 'impunity' by deploying banned missiles. Mr. Trump said the U.S. will 'move forward' with developing its own military response options to Russia's new land-based cruise missiles that could target Western Europe.
Moscow has strongly denied any breaches and accused Washington of making false accusations in order to justify its pullout.
The collapse of the INF Treaty has raised fears of a repeat of a Cold War showdown in the 1980s, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union both deployed intermediate-range missiles on the continent. Such weapons were seen as particularly destabilizing as they only take a few minutes to reach their targets, leaving no time for decision-makers and raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning.
After the U.S. gave notice of its intention to withdraw from the treaty in six months, Mr. Putin said Russia would do the same. He ordered the development of new land-based intermediate-range weapons, but emphasized that Russia won't deploy them in the European part of the country or elsewhere unless the U.S. does so.
'We will respond quid pro quo,' Mr. Putin said. 'Our American partners have announced they were suspending their participation in the treaty, and we will do the same. They have announced they will conduct research and development, and we will act accordingly.'
The U.S. has accused Russia of developing and deploying a cruise missile that violates provisions of the pact that ban production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km (310 to 3,410 miles). Mr. Trump's move also reflected his administration's view that the pact was an obstacle to efforts needed to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China, which isn't part of the treaty.