Vladimir Putin has said Russia is ready to develop new weapons systems in response to other countries doing the same – and warned that if the US pulls out of a treaty on intermediate-range nuclear weapons, Moscow will do likewise.
Mr Putin said Russia will adhere to a landmark Cold War-era arms control treaty for as long as America sticks to it.
He said he believes that global nuclear disarmament is a real possibility and that Russia “want[s] it and will be striving to achieve that”. It is a statement never heard before from a Russian leader.
However, he noted Moscow is ready to develop new weapons systems, both nuclear and non-nuclear, in response to other countries doing the same but did not specifically mention the US in that part of his comments.
The Russian leader was speaking at the Valdai forum of international policy experts in Sochi, Russia.
He said Russia has adhered to agreed-upon obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated all short and intermediate-range – going from 500 to 5000km (3,100 miles) – nuclear and conventional missiles.
The tready did not cover sea-launched missiles, however, and Mr Putin contended that because Russia’s navy and air force did not have the capability at the time, it was basically “unilateral disarmament” to favour the “selfishness” of the US.
Russia has since developed such cruise missiles for its Navy ships and is currently developing “new precision weapons”, according to the Washington Post.
Mr Putin also took the opportunity to talk about North Korea.
He warned against “cornering North Korea”.
The world cannot “fall in to outright insolence” in trying to deal with North Korea, which counts Russia as a major trading partner. “Whether you like the North Korean regime or not, whether it is good or not, you should not forget it is a sovereign state,” he commented.
Russia did cast a vote in the United Nations for the strictest-ever sanctions to be imposed on North Korea regarding oil, seafood and textiles last month, but also called for a “gradual” reform of the world body.
Mr Putin said “threatening to use force or going down to outright boorishness and swearing” would be the wrong approach, in what appeared to be a swipe at Donald Trump.
The president recently tweeted that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who Mr Trump has repeatedly referred to as “Rocket Man”.
“We’ll do what has to be done!,” tweeted Mr Trump.
On another occasion he took to Twitter again to write that “only one thing will work” to stop the isolated Asian nation from continuing to develop its nuclear weapons programme.
After trading barbs, Kim Jong-un’s state-un news agency issued a statement in which it called Mr Trump a “dotard” and “frightened dog”.
Late last week Russia had also criticised the Trump administration’s decision not to certify the Iran nuclear deal.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Mr Trump’s action “once again underlines the inadmissibility of using aggressive and threatening rhetoric in international relations... it is a hangover from the past.”
Mr Putin also noted that the US has been slow to dismantle its chemical weapons arsenals in line with an international treaty, while Russia wrapped up the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpiles last month.
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