Putin says Russia will respond if US exits INF

- Dec 07, 2018-

Russia opposes the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and it will respond "in an appropriate manner", Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

Putin's remarks to Russian news agencies came a day after the United States threatened to stop adhering to the INF treaty unless Russia returns to compliance with it within 60 days.

He said the US decision to ditch the INF treaty means that Washington has decided that the US "has to have these weapons". Russia's response, according to Putin, will be: "We will do the same."

At a NATO meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo accused Russia of "cheating at its arms control obligations" under the INF treaty.

Pompeo warned that if Russia did not comply with the treaty's terms within 60 days, Washington could activate a six-month notice period for leaving the 1987 pact.

"Russia must return to full and verifiable compliance; Russia's failure to do so will result in the demise of the INF Treaty," Pompeo told reporters.

NATO allies led by Germany pressed Pompeo to give diplomacy a final push.

Germany, the Netherlands and Belgian are concerned about the deployment of US missiles in Europe-as happened in the 1980s, touching off large anti-US demonstrations-while being caught up in nuclear competition between Moscow and Washington.

A US exit from the INF treaty would put another strain on NATO allies already shaken by US President Donald Trump's demands for higher military spending and what diplomats say is a lack of clarity about where US strategy is heading on the issue.

But NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed Pompeo's words by saying that NATO has given Russia the last chance to save the INF Treaty.

"Russia now has a last chance to come back into compliance with the INF treaty but we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty," Stoltenberg said.

Russia denies undertaking any development of land-based, intermediate-range Cruise missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads and hitting European cities at short notice.

Russia abides by the provisions of the INF treaty, its Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Tuesday.

Trump said on Oct 20 that his country would quit the INF treaty because Russia was allegedly in breach of that agreement. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called it a "dangerous move".

The INF treaty was signed on Dec 8, 1987 and took effect on June 1, 1988. It outlawed deployed and non-deployed intermediate range (1,000-5,000 kilometers) and shorter range (500-1,000 km) ground-based missiles.