Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the Kremlin would "respond appropriately" if the United States pulls out of the Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaty that prohibits intermediate and shorter-range nuclear missiles, according to the WSJ .
In October, President Trump said that Washington would withdraw from the 1987 treaty, citing Russia's development of the 9M729 cruise missile - which Moscow has been working on for several years. As we noted in September, Russia has been working on sub-launched hypersonic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear payload.
U.S. officials last year said the Pentagon had begun work on preliminary research and development of nuclear weapons aimed at potentially reviving an arsenal of the type prohibited under the treaty. They said Moscow had been informed of the U.S.’ progress in order to pressure Russia into compliance with the 1987 agreement that covers missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, or about 300 to 3,400 miles. -WSJ
"We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement," Trump said in October, adding: "We’re going to terminate the agreement" - ostensibly to develop similar weapons, after being pushed to drop the treaty by National Security Adviser John Bolton - saying he didn't want to leave the US in a position where Russia would be free to "go out and do weapons and we're not allowed to."
"Russia has violated the agreement. They have been violating it for many years," Trump said after a rally in Elko, Nevada. "And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to." -Donald Trump
When first signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev following their historic 1986 meeting, the INF was touted as an important de-escalation of tensions between the two superpowers. But it has since become a flashpoint in the increasingly strained relationship between the US and Russia, as both sides have accused the other of violating its terms.
In October, the New York Times reported that the pact has limited the US from deploying weapons to counter the burgeoning military threat posed by China in the Western Pacific after Beijing has repeatedly ignored claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea and transformed reefs into military bases.
On Wednesday, Putin responded, saying on Russian state television "Our American partners apparently believe that the situation has changed to such an extent that the U.S. should have such weapons," adding "What answer will they have from our side? It’s simple: we’ll do it too."
Russia says that Washington's claims are without merit and that it has tried on several occasions to prove that it has been abiding by the treaty. Last month, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow's test of the 9M729 cruise missile had a range below that banned under the nuclear treaty.
Also on Wednesday, the head of Russia's armed forces, Valery Gerasimov, assembled foreign military attaches to warn them of Russia's reaction to a US withdrawal from the agreement.
Speaking on state TV, he said: "I would like to transmit the message through you to your superiors that if the INF agreement is broken, our side will respond."
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