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Putin mulls Russia retaliation if US quits INF Treaty

President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation on July 16, 2018. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with his top military officials to discuss a response to U.S. threats to pull out of a key nuclear arms treaty because of alleged violations by Moscow.

The U.S. withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) “wouldn’t be left without an answer from our side,” Putin told a meeting of Defense Ministry officials in Moscow on November 19, adding that the Kremlin was ready to discuss the matter with Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump last month declared his intention to withdraw from the 1987 INF Treaty, citing alleged Russian violations of the accord, which prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,000 kilometers.

Russia has repeatedly denied the accusations and also alleged that some elements of U.S. missile-defense systems in Europe were in violation of the agreement. Washington denies that.

Trump’s move came amid persistent tension between the West and Russia over issues including Moscow’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged election meddling in the United States and Europe, and the poisoning of a Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain in March.

In 2002, the United States withdrew from another important arms control agreement — the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, also known as the ABM.

Putin said on November 19 that Russia responded to the U.S. move by developing new weapons that he said were capable of piercing any prospective missile shield.

The Russian leader had previously warned that the U.S. plan to withdraw from the INF Treaty could lead to a new “arms race.”