(CNSNews.com) – President Vladimir Putin warned Wednesday that Russia’s response to the planned U.S. withdrawal from a Cold War-era arms control treaty could threaten not just European countries that host U.S. missiles, but the U.S. itself.
Questioning derisively whether Americans can “count,” he advised the U.S. to “calculate the range and speed of our future arms systems” before making decisions that threaten Russia.
A NATO spokesman called the threats to target allies “unacceptable” and cautioned that it “stands ready to defend all members against any threat.”
Delivering his state of the nation speech to the Federal Assembly, Putin said if the U.S. follows its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by introducing new missile systems in Europe – where in some cases they would be a mere 10-12 minutes’ flight time away from Moscow – then Russia will be compelled to “respond with mirror or asymmetric actions.”
“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapons that can be used not only in the areas we are directly threatened from, but also in areas that contain decision-making centers for the missile systems threatening us.”
Putin said Russia would not be first to deploy such weapons in the region, but if it was obliged to do so, the Russian weapons would have technical specifications identical to those arrayed against it, including the length of time it takes for the missiles to reach and strike those “decision-making centers.”
Within the U.S. elite, he said, there were “many people who have excessive faith in their exceptionalism and supremacy over the rest of the world.”
“But can they count? Presumably they can. So let them calculate the range and speed of our future arms systems. This is all we are asking: just do the math first and take decisions that create additional serious threats to our country afterwards.”
He outlined several strategic weapons systems which he said the Russians “have up our sleeves.” (More details below).
‘Appoint a guilty party’
The INF Treaty, which came into effect in 1988, outlawed all ground-launched cruise or ballistic missile with ranges between roughly 300 and 3,400 miles.
The U.S. has accused Russia of violating the treaty for years, by deploying a land-based cruise missile with a range that is banned under the agreement. President Trump consequently plans to withdraw later this year.
Putin repeated Russia’s contention that it the U.S. that is contravening the treaty: “First, they violate everything, then they look for excuses and appoint a guilty party.”
Putin accused the U.S. of violating the treaty through its ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in central Europe, by deploying “target missiles” and launch systems capable of firing medium-range cruise missiles.
“[By] using medium-range target missiles and deploying launchers in Romania and Poland that are fit for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, the U.S. has openly violated [the treaty],” he charged.
(The Pentagon has long disputed that the BMD shield violates the treaty. It says the system is designed to protect allies against the long-range missiles that Iran is developing and testing, not Russia’s arsenal.)
Asked for NATO’s reaction to Putin’s statements, deputy spokesperson Piers Cazalet in an email called them “unacceptable,” and added that NATO “stands ready to defend all members against any threat.”
Russia should focus on returning to compliance with the INF Treaty, he said.
Cazalet cited NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg as saying that any alliance response to Russia’s breach of the treaty would be “united and measured,” and that “NATO has no intention of deploying new land-based nuclear weapons in Europe.”
Russia’s claims about INF Treaty violations in the BMD system were unfounded, and a “blatant attempt to distract attention from” Russia’s own breach of the treaty.
Cazalet said the BMD shield was “purely defensive,” and the facilities in Romania and Poland “are fully compliant with the INF Treaty.”
‘Outspend and out-innovate’
In his own State of the Union earlier this month, Trump said that if an alternative to the INF Treaty could not be negotiated, then the U.S. would “outspend and out-innovate all others by far.”
Putin in his speech was dismissive, however.
“Our American colleagues have already tried to gain absolute military superiority with their global missile defense project,” he said. “They need to stop deluding themselves. Our response will always be efficient and effective.”
The new weaponry Putin cited included:
--Zirkon: A submarine--launched hypersonic missile, reportedly capable of traveling at nine times the speed of sound and striking targets some 620 miles away.
--Sarmat: a heavy ICBM reportedly able to achieve hypersonic speeds and outsmart advanced missile defense systems. Putin said it was “undergoing a series of tests.”
--Peresvet: a ground-based laser weapon which Putin said were undergoing operator training tests and would from next December be placed on “standby alert”
--Kinzhal: A hypersonic air-borne ballistic missile which Russia says is the first of its kind in the world and is being mounted on MiG-31 interceptor aircraft.
--Burevestnik: A nuclear-capable and nuclear-powered cruise missile with “unlimited range.”
--Poseidon: A nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed unmanned underwater vehicle, again boasting “unlimited range,” and which Russia has said could be used against aircraft, coastal fortifications and infrastructure. Putin said they were “successfully undergoing tests.”
--Avangard: An intercontinental hypersonic glider capable of delivering nuclear or conventional payloads.