Feb. 20 (UPI) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a national address Wednesday Moscow could target the United States if it moves new missiles into eastern Europe, after the scrapping of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.
In his State of the Nation address, Putin threatened to target countries in Europe and the United States with new intermediate-range missiles if similar missiles are stationed against Russia in neighboring European nations. He said such a scenario would target U.S. decision-making centers.
“Russia is not planning to be the first to deploy these missiles to Europe,” Putin told the Federal Assembly. “If they are indeed manufactured and sent to the European continent … this will sharply deteriorate international security and create serious threats to Russia since it takes up to 10-12 minutes for certain types of these missiles to fly to Moscow.”
The Kremlin leader promised “tit-for-tat” asymmetric measures against the United States.
“Russia will be forced to create and deploy those types of weapons … against those regions from where we will face a direct threat, but also against those regions hosting the centers where decisions are taken on using those missile systems threatening us,” he said.
The Trump administration announced this month an intention to withdraw from the INF treaty, saying Russia is not abiding by the agreement. Putin said Russia would do the same. The Cold War treaty was brokered in 1987 between former leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Putin told his ministers Wednesday not to engage in disarmament talks with Washington until the leadership is “mature enough” for equal and meaningful dialogue.
Other parts of the speech addressed poverty and social unrest in Russia and promised to invest “colossal” resources using money “earned, not borrowed.” More than one in five Russians live in poverty, Kremlin research says.
“We cannot wait, the situation must change for the better now,” Putin said.
International sanctions have taken a toll on Russia since it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. The fighting there has killed more than 10,000 people.