Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that, if the United States deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will have to target the countries hosting them.
The October 24 statement follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement over the weekend that he intends to withdraw from a 1987 nuclear arms control pact over alleged Russian violations.
Putin spoke on October 24, four days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty over alleged Russian violations.
The INF treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.
Nearly 2,700 missiles were eliminated by the Soviet Union and the United States — most of the latter in Europe — under the treaty.
Trump and White House national security adviser John Bolton, who met with Putin and other top officials in Moscow on October 22-23, cited U.S. concerns about what NATO allies say is a Russian missile that violates the pact and about weapons development by China, which is not a party to the treaty.
Putin said he hoped the United States wouldn’t follow up by positioning intermediate-range missiles in Europe.
“If they are deployed in Europe, we will naturally have to respond in kind,” Putin said at a news conference after talks with visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
“The European nations that would agree to that should understand that they would expose their territory to the threat of a possible retaliatory strike. These are obvious things.”
He continued: “I don’t understand why we should put Europe in such serious danger.”
“I see no reason for that,” Putin said. “I would like to repeat that it’s not our choice. We don’t want it.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said October 24 that European members of the military alliance are unlikely to deploy new nuclear weapons on their soil in response to the alleged violations of the INF treaty.
“We will, of course, assess the implications for NATO allies, for our security of the new Russian missiles and the Russian behavior,” Stoltenberg said. “But I don’t foresee that [NATO] allies will station more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile.”
Putin rejected Trump’s claim that Russia has violated the INF treaty, adding that he hoped to discuss the issue with Trump in Paris when they both attend November 11 events marking the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I.
“We are ready to work together with our American partners without any hysteria,” he said. “The important thing is what decisions will come next.”