Putin threatens to build new missiles after Trump pulls US out of Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaty

'We suspend the deal as well,' says Russian president in televised response

Peter Stubley
Saturday 02 February 2019 10:55 GMT
Vladimir Putin: Russia will abandon nuclear arms treaty

Vladimir Putin announced Russia will develop new intermediate-range missiles as he pulled the country out of a Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaty – mirroring a similar move by President Trump.

“The American partners have declared that they suspend their participation in the deal, we suspend it as well,” Mr Putin said during a televised meeting with foreign and defence ministers.

“They have announced they will conduct research and development, and we will act accordingly.”

He ordered the Russian military to start work on creating new missiles, including hypersonic weapons, and told ministers not to initiate disarmament talks with Washington.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov aso accused the US of an “outright violation” of the treaty and other arms deals.

It comes after Donald Trump announced on Friday that the US will withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia in six months “unless Russia comes back into compliance”.

The pact, signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, banned both countries from possessing or test-firing ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 300 and 3,100 miles.

Russia has been accused of violating the deal by developing a cruise missile, known as 9M729, which has a reported range of 300 to 3,400 miles. The Kremlin denies the allegation and claimed the US has deployed defence systems capable of launching intermediate-range missiles in Romania.

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US officials have also expressed concern that China, which is not part of the agreement, is deploying large numbers of missiles in Asia that the US cannot counter because it is bound by the treaty.

China has the fourth-largest nuclear arsenal with about 280 warheads, compared with 6,450 for the United States and 6,850 for Russia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Responding to the suspension of the treaty, China’s foreign ministry ruled out negotiating a new multilateral pact to replace the INF and warned the US decision to pull out might trigger “adverse consequences”.

“China is opposed to the US withdrawal and urges the US and Russia to properly resolve differences through constructive dialogue,” the ministry said in a statement, describing the treaty as “safeguarding global strategic balance”.

“What is imperative at the moment is to uphold and implement the existing treaty instead of creating a new one,” the foreign ministry added. “China opposes the multilateralisation of this treaty.”

Nato said in a statement its allies “fully support” the US decision, which is also backed by UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson.

The move has sparked widespread criticism, however, with Mr Gorbachev describing it as “not the work of a great mind”.

Dr Patricia Lewis, an international security expert at think tank Chatham House, said the importance of the INF treaty went beyond Russia and the US.

“Any use of nuclear weapons that resulted from a conflict between them would have disastrous impacts for the whole planet. Every country, every person, has skin in this game,” she said.

During the televised meeting, Mr Lavrov said the New Start treaty, which set out to reduce by half the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers, was also in dispute.

Additional reporting by AP and Reuters

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