Toronto, February 21: Weeks after the Trump Administration quit the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia, Vladimir Putin has sent out a stark warning to Washington DC. Putin addressed the treaty in his State of the Union address and said, "I'm saying this clearly and openly, Russia will be forced to deploy weapons that can be used... against the decision-making centres that are behind the missile systems which threaten us," Putin said.
"The capability of such weapons, including the time to reach those centres, will be equivalent to the threats against Russia." In short, Putin has said that U.S. cities will be targeted if the U.S. brings missiles to Europe to target Russia.
The Russian president accused the U.S. of abandoning the treaty to pursue new missiles and weapons technology and said the Trump Administration has tried to pin the blame on Moscow. Putin promised that Russia’s stance remained the same despite the U.S. abandoning the treaty and that Moscow would not deploy short or intermediate-range missiles in western Russia unless similar weapons were first deployed in Europe. "We don't want confrontation, particularly with such a global power as the US," he said.
According to the 1987 INF treaty, neither of the two nuclear-armed powers could develop nor deploy land-based missiles within a range of 500-5,500km of each other. This treaty led to nuclear missiles being removed from Europe and in turn reducing the threat of a nuclear war breaking out between the U.S. and Russia.
The INF treaty was abandoned by U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton who accused Russia of secretly developing such missiles and deploying them close to NATO countries.
During his speech, Putin also disclosed Russia’s work on developing a new range of super missiles such as the Tsirkon, a hypersonic missile for the Russian Navy that could travel up to 1,000km and would be able to strike land targets. He added that the new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile and the Poseidon nuclear-powered underwater drone have performed well in recent tests.
Putin’s speech was aimed at projecting strength at the West as the U.S. and UK have worked to bring sanctions against Moscow for its alleged nerve-agent attack as well as cyber-attacks against them in 2018. His address to his domestic audience was intended to show that the country is strong and resilient under his leadership even as Putin’s approval ratings are at a five-year low in the country.