President Vladimir Putin warned of a resolute response if the U.S. decides to station missiles in neighboring countries to Russia.
Putin, at his annual address to parliament on Wednesday, said his country would not seek confrontation and would not take the first step in deploying missiles after the suspension of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
However, he said Russia would respond to any deployment of new intermediate-range missiles in Europe by targeting the United States itself and not just the countries were they were held, according to a Reuters translation. He said he would field new weapons that would target U.S. decision-making centers.
He 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.”
In early February, the U.S. confirmed it would suspend its participation 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 the measure 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 halting his country’s obligations to the treaty. Speaking to media that day, 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.”
On Wednesday, 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. He 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.
He 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.