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‘Arms race underway’ since US pullout from ABM Treaty two decades ago: Putin

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An experimental version of a US cruise missile is fired from San Nicolas Island, California, US. (File photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the United States triggered an arms race after its unilateral withdrawal from the landmark Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty almost two decades ago.

Speaking at a forum in Russia’s capital, Moscow, the president said the weapon race between the Cold War foes “is on the move.”

Former US President George W. Bush terminated the treaty on June 13, 2002. Bush said at the time that the 1972 agreement was “now behind us,” and that he was committed to deploy missile defenses “as soon as possible” to protect against “growing missile threats.”

“The arms race is on the march, unfortunately. And it has started after the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty,” Putin stated, adding that he had warned Washington against the move back then. “The American partners replied that their missile defense system was not against [Russia], so we could do what we want.”

Putin, however, said the treaty was an attempt to “gain strategic advantages by de-energizing the nuclear potential of a probable opponent.”

Putin had also warned former President Donald Trump against the 2019 demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF); a key element “in maintaining predictability and restraint in the missile-related sector throughout Europe.”

He said last year that Washington’s exit from the INF was a “grave mistake,” which increases “confrontational potential” between the world’s nuclear powers. Following the US withdrawal, Moscow also declared the formal end of the arms control treaty.

The INF was signed toward the end of the Cold War in 1987 by then US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It banned all land-based missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers and included missiles carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads.

The last standing nuclear arms control agreement between Russia and the US — the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) — has, however, survived after Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden agreed on a five-year extension earlier this year. The New START restricts the land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers that deliver them. Under the treaty, the two states are allowed to have no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers.

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