Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned of his country building missiles prohibited under a Cold War agreement in case the United States decides to exit the INF pact.
Putin reaction came in the wake of NATO’s accusation that Russia has already broken the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
The pact, signed in 1987 by the US and USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), banned both the nation’s from using all short and medium-range missiles.
Putin, however, says the accusation is a pretext for the US to leave the pact.
The Russian leader, in televised comments, stated many other countries had developed weapons banned under the INF treaty.
“Now it seems our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that [they] must also have such a weapon,” Putin stated. “What’s our response? It’s simple – in that case we will also do this.”
US President Donald Trump has earlier stated that his country would leave the treaty because of Russian actions.
Russia views the weapons as a cheaper alternative to conventional forces, according to anaylsts.
On Tuesday, the Western military alliance formally accused Russia of breaking the treaty.
“Allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security,” the Nato foreign ministers’ statement read.
The statement said the member nations “strongly support” the US claim that Russia is in breach of the pact, and called on Moscow to “return urgently to full and verifiable compliance”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking after the release of Nato’s statement, said Russia had 60 days to return to compliance with the treaty, after which time the US would suspend its own compliance.
“During this 60 days we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” he said.