A defiant Vladimir Putin yesterday threatened to develop nuclear missiles banned under a treaty with the United States after Washington gave Moscow a deadline to comply with the key arms control agreement.
In October, President Donald Trump sparked concern globally by declaring the United States would pull out of the deal and build up America's nuclear stockpile "until people come to their senses". America's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have pressed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to give diplomacy one more chance before pulling out of the deal, fearing a new arms race could be triggered in Europe.
"Development of these missiles has been approved in the Pentagon's budget already, but they only announced their withdrawal (from INF treaty) afterwards".
"The reckless expansion of NATO, the build-up of the alliance's potential on the so-called Eastern flank, the deployment of United States missile defence systems in Europe, the illegitimate sanctions under imaginary pretexts - all these things have led to a crisis of confidence in the Euro-Atlantic", Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.
Signed in 1987 by the U.S. and USSR, it banned both countries' use of all short and medium-range missiles.
"I regret that we will now most likely see the end of the INF treaty, but at the same time we don't have any other alternative than to react in the way we do".
"There are no new US missiles in Europe, but there are new Russian missiles, SSC-8, they are mobile, they are hard to detect, they are nuclear capable", he stated.
Pompeo said there was no reason why the U.S. "should continue to cede this crucial military advantage" to rival powers.
If Russia does not comply within the 60-day deadline, the U.S. will begin the six-month process of formally withdrawing from the INF treaty.
The US navy is testing a laser weapons system that could go into service next spring.
In 2014, then US President Barack Obama accused Russian Federation of breaching the INF Treaty after it allegedly tested a ground-launched cruise missile. "Several allies announced in the meeting yesterday that they will raise this issue, INF issue, with Russian Federation bilaterally".
Putin at the time warned that abandoning the treaty and failure to extend another key arms control agreement known as the New START, would unleash a new arms race and put Europe in danger.