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Moscow says new missile systems planned to counter US by 2021

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (center). (en.Kremlin.ru/Released)
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This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says Moscow will push to develop two new land-based missile systems before 2021 in response to Washington’s planned exit from a landmark nuclear arms control agreement.

The U.S. withdrawal from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty came after Washington repeatedly accused Moscow of violating the accord, which bans both countries from stationing short- and intermediate-range land-based missiles in Europe.

On February 1, U.S. President Donald Trump said Washington was starting a process to withdraw from the 1987 treaty within six months.

In a tit-for-tat move on February 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was also leaving the treaty and would begin work on new types of weapons that would breach the deal.

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‘Hypersonic’ Missile

At a meeting with defense officials on February 5, Shoigu said Russia should develop two new missile systems during the next two years.

“From February 2, the United States suspended its obligations under the INF treaty,” Shoigu said.

“At the same time they are actively working to create a land-based missile with a range of more than 500 kilometers which is outside the treaty’s limits,” Shoigu said. “President Putin has given the Defense Ministry the task of taking symmetrical measures.”

Shoigu said during the course of 2020 and 2021, Russia “must develop a land-based version of the sea-based Kalibr system with a long-range cruise missile.”

“In this same time frame, we must create a land-based missile system with a hypersonic long-range missile,” he said.

Washington has not yet commented on Russia’s announcement, but Trump administration officials were quoted as saying last week that there were no immediate plans to test or deploy missiles banned under the INF Treaty.

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The bilateral treaty, the first of its kind to eliminate an entire class of missiles, was widely seen as a cornerstone of arms-control stability in Europe and elsewhere.

Washington and NATO have accused Russia of breaching the accord by developing the 9M729 cruise missile, also known as the SSC-8.

Moscow has denied that the missile was violating the treaty and accused the United States in turn of wanting to abandon the pact so it can start a new arms race.

U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood told a UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on February 5 that the United States would reconsider its withdrawal from the INF treaty “should Russia return to full and verifiable compliance.”

“This is Russia’s final opportunity to return to compliance,” Wood said.

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