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Putin urges Russian military to take ‘concrete steps’ against US withdrawal from INF Treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a press conference after the East-Asia Summit in Singapore on November 15, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday Moscow does not need to join another arms race, but it would not leave Washington’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty unanswered.

Russia is ready to continue dialog with the US on the bilateral treaty banning medium-range missiles, which has become one of the cornerstones of nuclear disarmament, the Russian leader said at a government meeting in Sochi.

Still, the US should “treat this issue with full responsibility,” the president said, adding that Washington’s decision to withdraw from the agreement “cannot and will not be left unanswered.”

The president also called on the government and military officials to develop “concrete steps” Russia can take in response to the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, the RT reported.

US President Donald Trump said on October 20 that Washington would withdraw from the INF, which was signed towards the end of Cold War in 1987 by then President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The treaty, seen as a milestone in ending the Cold War arms race between the two superpowers, banned ground-launch nuclear missiles with ranges from 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers and led to the elimination of nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles.

In his Monday remarks, Putin warned that his statements were not empty threats. He said that Russia had previously cautioned the US against leaving the treaty regulating missile systems and warned Washington about potential retaliation. 

“Now, we have hypersonic weapons capable of penetrating any missile defense,” Putin said, referring to Russia’s state-of-the-art weapons.

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Moscow will not allow anyone to drag itself into another armed race, the Russian leader said. Instead, Russia plans to focus on “balanced development” of its Army, Navy and Air Force. The troops are expected to adopt new military training techniques, using the combat experience they received in Syria. Russia will also continue to modernize its military hardware.

Putin said he hopes that the “common sense” will prevail and the US will continue a dialog with Russia in the fields of strategic stability and collective security on the basis of “mutual responsibility.”

The Cold War-era treaty, which rid Europe of land-based nuclear missiles, has come into question against a backdrop of renewed tensions between the West and Russia.

European leaders worry any collapse of the INF treaty could lead to a new, destabilizing arms race.

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