Putin: We'll target USA if Washington
deploys missiles in Europe
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[February 20, 2019]
By Polina Nikolskaya and Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will respond to
any U.S. deployment of short or intermediate-range nuclear weapons in
Europe by targeting not only the countries where they are stationed, but
the United States itself, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.
In his toughest remarks yet on a potential new arms race, Putin said
Russia was not seeking confrontation and would not take the first step
to deploy missiles in response to Washington's decision this month to
quit a landmark Cold War-era arms control treaty.
But he said that Russia's reaction to any deployment would be resolute
and that U.S. policy-makers, some of whom he said were obsessed with
U.S. exceptionalism, should calculate the risks before taking any steps.
"It's their right to think how they want. But can they count? I'm sure
they can. Let them count the speed and the range of the weapons systems
we are developing," Putin told Russia's political elite to strong
"Russia will be forced to create and deploy types of weapons which can
be used not only in respect of those territories from which the direct
threat to us originates, but also in respect of those territories where
the centers of decision-making are located, he said.
MISSILES IN EUROPE
Alleging Russian violations, Washington said this month it was
suspending its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear
Forces Treaty (INF) and starting the process of quitting it, untying its
hands to develop new missiles.
The pact banned either side from stationing short and
intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe and its demise raises
the prospect of a new arms race between Washington and Moscow, which
denies flouting the treaty.
Russia denies violating the treaty. Putin responded to the U.S. move by
saying Russia would mirror the U.S. moves by suspending its own
obligations and quitting the pact.
But Putin, who has sometimes used bellicose rhetoric to talk up Russia's
standoff with the West and to rally Russians round the flag, did not up
[to top of second column]
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly,
including the State Duma parliamentarians, members of the Federation
Council, regional governors and other high-ranking officials, in
Moscow, Russia February 20, 2019. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin
He did not announce new missile deployments, said money for new
systems must come from existing budget funds and declared that
Moscow would not deploy new land-based missiles in Europe or
elsewhere unless Washington did so first.
On Wednesday, he made clear however that he was ready, reluctantly,
to escalate if the United States escalated and that Russia was
continuing to actively develop weapons and missile systems to ensure
it was well prepared for such an eventuality.
He said any U.S. move to place new missiles in Europe would leave
Moscow with no choice but to respond because it would drastically
cut the time it took U.S. missiles to reach Russia, something that
would pose a direct threat.
He said Russia wanted good ties with the United States, but was
ready with its defensive response if necessary.
We know how to do this and we will implement these plans
immediately, as soon as the corresponding threats to us become a
(Additional reporting by Tom Balmforth and Katya Golubkova; Writing
by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Christian Lowe)
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