Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to “immediately and symmetrically” respond Thursday if the U.S. pulls out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.
In a speech at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, Putin stated that Moscow is ready to develop new nuclear and non-nuclear weapons systems if other countries begin doing so.
The Cold War-era arms control deal, signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, banned all short and intermediate-range land-based nuclear and conventional missiles on both sides.
The treaty has been placed under considerable strain over the last several years amid accusations from both Washington and Moscow that the other side has violated the deal.
Gorbachev, in an op-ed for state-run newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta last week, warned that the INF is in danger of collapse due to deteriorating U.S.-Russian relations.
“If the system of curbing nuclear arms crumbles, and that is exactly what the collapse of the INF treaty can lead to, the consequences will be catastrophic,” Gorbachev wrote.
While Trump has criticized other nuclear pacts such as New START, Chris Ford, the National Security Council’s senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counter-proliferation, stated in June that the U.S. does not want to withdraw from the INF treaty.
Putin also discussed escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula and warned against backing North Korea into a corner.
“Problems should be solved in dialogue, and North Korea should not be backed into a corner,” Putin reportedly said.
In what appeared to be a comment aimed at Trump, Putin argued that “threatening to use force or going down to outright boorishness and swearing” would be an ill-advised approach to dealing with Pyongyang.
“Whether you like the North Korean regime or not, whether it is good or not, you should not forget it is a sovereign state,” Putin said.
Putin also expressed skepticism that a potential U.S. preventative strike on North Korea would eliminate all of Pyongyang’s weapons.
During a question and answer session, Putin described Russia’s biggest mistake of the last 15 years as placing too much trust in the West.
“Your mistake is you took that as weakness,” Putin said.
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