MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would be forced to target any European countries that agreed to host US nuclear missiles following Washington’s withdrawal from a landmark Cold war-era arms control treaty.
Speaking at a news conference after holding talks with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Putin said he wanted to discuss what he called dangerous US plans to leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The two leaders are expected to hold talks in Paris on Nov. 11.
Russia has called Trump’s decision to quit the 1987 treaty, which eliminated both countries’ land-based short and intermediate-range ballistic missiles from Europe, dangerous. Trump has accused Russia of violating the treaty, something Moscow denies. It says Washington is the one violating it.
US National Security Advisor John Bolton told Putin on Tuesday that Washington would press ahead with plans to quit the pact despite objections from Russia and some European countries.
Putin told reporters on Wednesday that Russia would have to respond in kind and would do so swiftly if the United States quit the pact.
“Answering your question directly, can we respond,” Putin said when asked what Russia would do if Trump made good on his pledge to leave the treaty. “We can, and it will be very fast and very effective,” he said.
“If the United States does withdraw from the INF treaty, the main question is what they will do with these (intermediate-range) missiles that will once again appear.”
“If they will deliver them to Europe, naturally our response will have to mirror this, and European countries that agree to host them, if things go that far, must understand that they are putting their own territory at risk of a possible counter-strike.”