Putin threatens to develop nuclear missiles

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MOSCOW: A defiant Vladimir Putin on Wednesday 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.

The latest spike in tensions came a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would withdraw from a major Cold War treaty limiting mid-range nuclear arms within 60 days if Russia does not dismantle missiles that the US claims breach the deal.

Putin dismissed Pompeo’s statement as a smokescreen, saying Washington had already decided to ditch the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF).

“They thought we would not notice,” the Kremlin chief said, claiming the Pentagon has already earmarked an amount for the development of missiles banned by the treaty. “We are against the destruction of this treaty. But if this happens, we will react accordingly.”

Putin said about a dozen countries were now producing mid-range missiles of the type banned by the INF treaty.

“Apparently now American partners believe the situation has changed so much that the United States should also have such weapons. “What will be our answer? A simple one: we will also do this,” Putin said.

In Brussels, EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini urged Russia and the US to save the treaty, warning that Europe did not want to become a battlefield for global powers once again, as it had been during the Cold War.

Signed in 1987 by then US president Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, the INF resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals.

But it was a bilateral treaty between the US and the then Soviet Union, so it puts no restrictions on other major military actors like China.

Pompeo said at a meeting with fellow Nato foreign ministers on Tuesday that there was no reason why the US “should continue to cede this crucial military advantage” to rival powers.

Nato said it was now “up to Russia” to save the treaty. -AFP

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