HELSINKI – Russian President Vladimir Putin made an appeal on Wednesday to the United States to resume arms-control negotiations even as he described a new missile recently tested by Washington as a threat that will require a response from Moscow.
The Russian government was “disappointed” to see the US test the new weapon less than three weeks after Washington formally renounced the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), Putin said during a joint press conference in Helsinki with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.
Under the INF, the US and the-then Soviet Union agreed to refrain from building and deploying land-based missiles with a range of 500- 5,471km (310-3,400mi), with the intent of making it more difficult for either country to initiate a nuclear strike on short notice.
Last Sunday, the US successfully tested a ground-launched version of a Navy Tomahawk cruise missile.
The test would have been barred if the INF were still in force.
US President Donald Trump said he scrapped the INF because Russia had violated the pact. Russia denies the accusation.
“The Americans have tested this missile too quickly after having withdrawn from the treaty,” Putin said Wednesday. “That gives us strong reason to believe that they had started work to adapt the sea-launched missile long before they began looking for excuses to opt out of the treaty.”
The test of the modified Tomahawk involved a launcher of the same type that the US has already deployed in Romania as part of a missile-defense network, the Russian leader said.
“Such missiles could be launched from facilities in Romania, as well as those to be deployed in Poland. It only requires software tweaks. I’m not sure that our American friends will share the information about which software they use even with their European partners,” Putin said.
For Russia, he said, the US test signifies “the emergence of new threats, to which we will react accordingly.”
Putin reiterated his call for the resumption of arms-control discussions, as well as the pledge he made Monday in Paris that Russia will only deploy non-INF-compliant missiles if it determines that the US has done so.
He emphasized, however, that ensuring the security of Russia is his top priority.