Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Wednesday that Moscow will target the U.S. with its new hypersonic missiles if the Trump administration follows its scrapping of a key arms control agreement by deploying new intermediate-range missiles in Europe.
In his state-of-the-nation address to Russian lawmakers, Putin said Russia was ready for talks with the U.S. on disarmament issues, “but we won’t knock on the closed door anymore,” Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reported.
The Trump administration announced in early February that it would withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty over what it said was Russian violation of the Cold War pact.
The INF Treaty, signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, covers deployed and non-deployed ground-based short-range missiles (from 310–620 miles) and intermediate-range missiles (from 620-3,420 miles.)
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.
In abandoning the treaty. Trump accused Moscow of violating the agreement with “impunity” by deploying banned missiles. Trump said in a statement that the U.S. will “move forward” with developing its own military response options to Russia’s deployment of banned cruise missiles that could target Western Europe.
Putin, addressing the Russian Federal Assembly, denied the charges of treaty violations but said the Kremlin would respond with new weapons aimed at the U.S. if Washington deploys new missiles in Europe.
The Russian leader also warned that Russia would not only aim its new, modern weapons at any country hosting any newly deployed weapons, but also at the U.S. itself.
“I will say it directly and explicitly so that no one could reproach us about anything and so that everyone could understand what we are talking about here,” he said. “Russia will be forced to create and deploy those types of weapons, which could be used not only against those regions from where we will face a direct threat, but also against those regions, hosting the centers, where decisions are taken on using those missile systems threatening us,”
His not-so-veiled threat included praise for the development of Russia’s new Zircon missile that he claimed could fly at nine times the speed of sound with a range of 620 miles. He said the Zircon could be deployed on ships and submarines, including seven new multi-purpose subs that Russia will roll out over the new two or three years.
Putin also praised Russia’s new nuclear-powered cruise missiles and nuclear-powered underwater drones that have undergone successful testing.
Noting that any U.S. intermediate-range missiles deployed in Europe would take only 10 to 12 minutes to hit Moscow, Putin said such steps would “sharply deteriorate international security and create serious threats to Russia.”
“This is a very serious danger to us,” he added. “In this case, we will be forced, and I want to stress this, we will be forced to envisage tit-for-tat and asymmetric measures.
“We need peace, and the entire effort on increasing our defensive capacity will pursue just one goal: It is aimed at ensuring security of our country and citizens so that no one could think about aggression against Russia and even try to use the methods of military pressure against our country,” he said.
In a separate presentation Wednesday, TASS reported, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu said the advanced weapons Putin has touted in the past have already been developed and some put into operation.
He said the weapons are “hundreds of times cheaper” to deploy than either the older Russian system or the U.S. missile defense system and that Russia would be able to keep up in any new arms race with the U.S..
Contributing: Associated Press