MOSCOW (Reuters) – Moscow will fight with any other US step to deploy new nuclear missiles closer to Russia by positioning its missiles closer to the US or deploying faster missiles or both, President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.
Putin said that Russia is not looking for a clash and would not take the first step to deploy the missiles in response to Washington's decision this month to abandon a major Cold War era arms control treaty.
However, in his harshest declarations on a potential new arms race, he claimed that Russia's reaction to any deployment would be resolute and that US policymakers, some of whom were accused of being obsessed with the exception of the states United, should calculate the risks before taking any initiative.
"They have the right to think as they want, but can they count, I'm sure they can, let me count the speed and range of weapon systems we are developing," Putin told Russia's political meeting. with a strong applause.
"Russia will be forced to create and deploy types of weapons that can be used not only in those territories where the direct threat comes from, but also in the territories where decision-making centers are located," he said.
"These weapons, with their specific tactics and techniques, including the flight time for the command centers I'm talking about, will fully match the threats that will be directed against Russia."
Russian nuclear missiles have already targeted the United States and vice versa.
It is likely that Putin's declaration evokes memories of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 when the then Soviet Union reacted to a deployment of US missiles in Turkey by sending ballistic missiles to Cuba, triggering a stalemate that brought the world , edge of the nuclear war.
Any move by the United States to place new missiles in Europe would reduce the time taken by some US missiles to reach Moscow at 10-12 minutes, Putin said, something that he called a serious threat.
Such a scenario, if left unmatched, will open the possibility that Russia will be hit by a nuclear strike before its missiles fired in response can reach the territory of the United States.
Russian land missiles currently affecting the United States are based on Russian territory and therefore flight time to major US population centers would be longer than US missiles deployed in Europe.
Putin has not confirmed how, technically, Russia would deploy missiles with a shorter strike time. Possible options include the deployment of an ally on the ground near the United States, the use of faster missiles on submarines or the use of one of the hypersonic weapons that Moscow claims to have developed.
In his speech on Wednesday, Putin said that a submarine capable of carrying a new submarine drone with nuclear attack capability, called Poseidon, will be launched this spring, and has also spoken about the success of the development of a new hypersonic missile called Tsirkon.
Russian state television broadcasted Poseidon's rehearsals for the first time on Wednesday, the RIA news agency reported.
Having noted the Russian violations, Washington said that this month it suspended its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Power Treaty of 1987 (INF) and started the exit process, loosening its hands to develop new missiles.
The pact has banned both sides from placing short-range and intermediate land missiles in Europe and its disappearance raises the prospect of a new arms race between Washington and Moscow, which denies breaking the treaty.
Putin responded to the US move by saying that Russia would mirror Washington's actions by suspending its obligations and abandoning the pact.
But the Russian leader, who sometimes used bellicose rhetoric to talk about Russia's stalemate with the West, did not raise the stakes.
He did not announce any new missile deployment, he said that the money for the new systems must come from existing budgetary funds and declared that Moscow will not deploy new missiles ashore in Europe or elsewhere, unless Washington has not done before.
On Wednesday, he made it clear, however, that he was reluctant to intensify if the United States intensified and that Russia continue to actively develop weapons and missile systems to make sure it was well prepared for that eventuality.
Putin said that Russia wanted good ties with the United States, but was ready with its defensive response, if necessary.
"We know how to do and we will implement these plans immediately, as soon as the corresponding threats become reality."
Additional reports by Polina Nikolskya, Tom Balmforth and Vladimir Soldatkin; Written by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Christian Lowe and Raissa Kasolowsky