Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday pledged a “symmetrical response” to the US’s recent trial of an intermediate-range missile, it’s first since the Cold War, which fears a new arms race.
“I order the Russian Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs (…) to analyze the level of threat created for our country by the actions of the United States and to take comprehensive measures to prepare an asymmetrical response,” said Putin at a meeting of his Security Council.
This US test, carried out Sunday from San Nicolas Island, off Western California, according to the Pentagon, ratified the death of the INF disarmament treaty that abolishes use – by Russia and the United States only – land-based missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.
This treaty, whose signature at the end of the Cold War in 1987 had put an end to the Euromissile crisis, triggered by the deployment in Europe of Soviet SS-20 nuclear warheads, was officially suspended by the two rival powers early August, after six months of a dialogue of the deaf.
Russia and China immediately condemned Sunday’s trial, denouncing the risk of “escalating military tensions” and a revival of the arms race.
“It is obvious that (the US missile test) was not the result of improvisation, but one more link in a chain of events planned for a long time,” Putin said on Friday. “This only confirms the basis of our concerns expressed previously,” he added.
– “Obvious violation” –
Since the beginning of the year, Moscow and Washington have been accusing each other of violating the INF Treaty.
The Americans are questioning the Russian missile 9M729 with a range, according to them, 1,500 km, which Moscow denies. Russia denounces the US missile defense system Aegis Ashore deployed in Poland and Romania, fearing that it is used for the launch of cruise missiles to the Russian territory.
“Now, a violation is obvious, it is useless to challenge it,” said Putin. “But this raises the question now: how will we know what will be deployed in Romania and Poland?”
According to the Russian president, “the real intentions” of the United States are “to deploy missiles previously prohibited in different parts of the world”.
But their deployment in Europe and Asia “affects our basic interests, since it is close to Russian borders,” said Putin.
“We have never wanted, do not want to and will not train in an arms race, very expensive and destructive for our economy,” he said.
According to Putin, Russia “remains open to constructive dialogue on an equal footing with the United States in order to restore confidence and strengthen international security”.
With the end of the INF Treaty, only one bilateral nuclear agreement between Moscow and Washington remains in force: the START Treaty, which maintains the nuclear arsenals of both countries well below the level of the Cold War. It must expire in 2021.