February 20, 2019 8:51 am
Updated: February 20, 2019 9:12 am

Putin threatens to target U.S. if it stations missiles in Europe

WATCH ABOVE: Russia will respond to any deployment of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe by targeting not only the countries where those missiles are stationed, but the United States itself, President Vladimir Putin said during his annual speech to parliament in Moscow on Wednesday.

A A

Russia will respond to any U.S. deployment of short or intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe by targeting not only the countries where they are stationed, but the United States itself, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

In his toughest remarks yet on a potential new arms race, Putin said Russia was not seeking confrontation and would not take the first step to deploy missiles in response to Washington’s decision this month to quit a landmark Cold War-era arms control treaty.

WATCH BELOW: Putin announces new hypersonic, nuclear-capable missiles


Story continues below

But he said that Russia’s reaction to any deployment would be resolute and that U.S. policy-makers, some of whom he said were obsessed with U.S. exceptionalism, should calculate the risks before taking any steps.

“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 told Russia’s political elite to strong applause.

“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 centres of decision-making are located,” he said.

WATCH BELOW: Putin boasts about speed of new Russian missiles

Missiles in Europe

Alleging Russian violations, Washington said this month it was suspending its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and starting the process of quitting it, untying its hands to develop new missiles.

WATCH BELOW: Russia stages massive military drills

The pact banned either side from stationing short and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe and its demise raises the prospect of a new arms race between Washington and Moscow, which denies flouting the treaty.

READ MORE: Russia is beefing up its presence at the North Pole — and Canada has little to compare

Russia denies violating the treaty. Putin responded to the U.S. move by saying Russia would mirror the U.S. moves by suspending its own obligations and quitting the pact.

But Putin, who has sometimes used bellicose rhetoric to talk up Russia’s standoff with the West and to rally Russians round the flag, did not up the ante.

WATCH BELOW: How Russia uses an ancient military strategy to deceive its geopolitical opponents

He did not announce new missile deployments, said money for new systems must come from existing budget funds and declared that Moscow would not deploy new land-based missiles in Europe or elsewhere unless Washington did so first.

On Wednesday, he made clear however that he was ready, reluctantly, to escalate if the United States escalated and that Russia was continuing to actively develop weapons and missile systems to ensure it was well prepared for such an eventuality.

READ MORE: Why Russia wants Nicolas Maduro to stay in charge of Venezuela

He said any U.S. move to place new missiles in Europe would leave Moscow with no choice but to respond because it would drastically cut the time it took U.S. missiles to reach Russia, something that would pose a direct threat.

WATCH BELOW: Treaty collapse could trigger new arms race between U.S. and Russia

Putin said Russia wanted good ties with the United States, but was ready with its defensive response if necessary.

“We know how to do this and we will implement these plans immediately, as soon as the corresponding threats to us become a reality.”

© 2019 Reuters

Report an error

Comments

Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.