Russia will respond to any US 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 yesterday.
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.
But he said that Russia's reaction to any deployment would be resolute and that US policy-makers, some of whom he said were obsessed with US exceptionalism, should calculate the risks before taking any steps.
"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.
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.
Russia denies violating the treaty. But flowed the US move.
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.
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.
Yesterday, he said any US 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 US missiles to reach Russia, something that would pose a direct threat.