World Politics

Putin threatens to target US if it deploys missiles in nearby European countries

Key Points
  • Putin, in his annual address to parliament, says 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 Treaty.
  • However, he says Russia would respond to any deployment of new intermediate-range missiles in Europe by targeting the United States itself and not just the countries where they are deployed, according to a Reuters translation.
  • He says he would field new weapons that would target U.S. decision-making centers.
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Putin warns against new missile deployment in Europe

President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday of a resolute response if the U.S. decides to station missiles in countries neighboring Russia.

Putin, in his annual address to parliament, 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 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 where they are deployed, 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 to 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.

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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, 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.

The White House didn't immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment. A statement by the U.S. Department of Defense said Russia had "long been cheating on the INF Treaty."

"The United States made numerous good faith efforts to get Russia to return to compliance, and Russia chose to continue its covert missile program in violation of the Treaty," the statement read.

It also rejected claims that the U.S. was in breach of the treaty. "The Aegis Ashore system in Romania and under construction in Poland are in full compliance with the INF Treaty, as NATO has stated, and not capable of launching offensive missiles like Tomahawk. Furthermore, we are not pursuing similar development of exotic new nuclear weapons delivery systems," it said.

WATCH: NATO calls on Russia to comply with missile treaty

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NATO calls on Russia to comply with missile treaty