Putin orders response to US missile test amid anger over pact
Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday ordered a like-for-like response to a recent US missile test, which he said showed Washington aimed to deploy previously banned missiles around the world.
The Pentagon said on Monday it had tested a conventionally configured cruise missile that hit its target after more than 500km of flight, its first such test since the demise of a landmark nuclear pact this month.
Washington formally withdrew from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) on August 2 after accusing Moscow of violating it, a charge dismissed by the Kremlin.
The pact had prohibited land-based missiles with a range of 500-5,400km, reducing the ability of both countries to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.
Mr Putin told his Security Council yesterday Russia could not stand idly by, and US talk of deploying new missiles in the Asia-Pacific region "affects our core interests as it is close to Russia's borders".
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said this month he was in favour of placing ground-launched intermediate-range missiles in Asia relatively soon, and Mr Putin complained this week that the US was now in a position to deploy its new land-based missile in Romania and Poland.
"All this leaves no doubts the real intention of the United States (in exiting the INF pact) was to... untie its hands to deploy previously banned missiles in different regions of the world," said Mr Putin.
"We have never wanted, do not want and will not be drawn into a costly, economically destructive arms race. That said, in the light of unfolding circumstances, I'm ordering the Defence Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and other appropriate agencies to analyse the threat to our country posed by US actions, and to take exhaustive measures to prepare a reciprocal response."
Despite his order, Mr Putin said Russia remained open to talks with the US aimed at restoring trust and strengthening international security.
The United States has said it has no imminent plans to deploy new land-based missiles in Europe.