Putin on a Nuclear Arms Race: Bring it on

The INF Treaty is about to get shredded.

06 December 2018, 10:31pm

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Vladimir Putin warned Wednesday that If the U.S. starts building intermediate-range nuclear weapons banned under a Cold War treaty, Russia will do exactly the same.

The Russian president was responding to claims by NATO and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said Tuesday that Moscow was in “material breach” of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, designed to lower the threat of nuclear war in Europe.

“Allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security,” a NATO foreign minister's statement read.

Pompeo issued a 60-day ultimatum for Putin to remedy the situation or see the U.S. withdraw from the pact.

But rather than back off, the Russian strongman issued his own threat.

“Now it seems our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that [they] must also have such a weapon,” Putin said in televised comments. “What's our response? It's simple — in that case, we will also do this.”

The INF treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev. It banned the use of ground-launched missiles with a range between 310 miles and 3,240 miles.

Putin claimed Wednesday that the U.S. Congress had already earmarked funds for research and development into building these missiles.

“They thought we would not notice, but we did,” he said, adding that when the U.S. was looking for someone to blame, they picked Russia because it “is the first word that comes to mind and sounds familiar to Western ears.”

The Kremlin chief was likely referring to a leaked memo from National Security Adviser John Bolton, published by the Washington Post, that ordered the Pentagon to “develop and deploy ground-launched missiles at the earliest possible date.”

READ: Ukraine says Russia tried to hack its critical infrastructure again

The EU has urged both sides to save the treaty, with foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini saying it had “guaranteed peace and security in European territory for 30 years now.”

Former President Barack Obama also threatened to withdraw from the treaty in 2014, accusing Russia of testing a ground-launched cruise missile. He relented following pleas from European leaders who said the move would kickstart an arms race.

Cover image: Russian President Vladimir Putin waves during the awarding ceremony marking the International Volunteer's Day on December 5, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on VICE US.