Putin: Russia will develop banned missiles if U.S. leaves arms treaty

Dec. 5 (UPI) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday his country will keep developing intermediate-range nuclear arms if the United States backs out of a 1987 treaty.

The United States and Russia have been going back and forth on the treaty for several years, with both sides accusing the other of violations. The pact prohibits both nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with ranges between 310 and 3,400 miles.

“It seems our American partners think … they should have such arms,” Putin said Wednesday. “What will our response be? Simple. We’re going to do the same.”

Putin’s remarks came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would suspend obligations to the treaty for 60 days. Pompeo said Russian non-compliance was the reason.

“It makes no sense for the United States to remain in a treaty that constrains our ability to respond to Russia’s violations,” Pompeo said. “We hope that they’ll change course, but there’s been absolutely no indication that they’ll do so.”

Putin balked at that idea, saying the United States is using it as a pretext to abandon the deal.

“Pompeo is so late with this. First, the U.S. announces its intention to leave the agreement, and then decides to look for the reasons,” Putin said. “They revert to their easiest and more familiar refrain: Russia’s to blame.”

National security adviser John Bolton warned Putin when he traveled to Moscow in October the United States intended to leave the treaty, reached in 1987 between former President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

“It’s important to look at the reality,” Bolton said at the time, adding the treaty is not a “cornerstone” of world security. “It is outmoded and ignored by other countries. Only one country is following it.”

President Donald Trump has said the treaty puts the United States at a disadvantage to other countries, like China, that aren’t bound by it. Pompeo suggested the United States could quickly start building missiles banned by the pact.

“There is no reason the United States should continue to cede this crucial military advantage to revisionist powers like China,” he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders have urged Trump to abide by the treaty, at least for now. Ultimately, the United States could withdraw in a unilateral action, against the wishes of the European Union.

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