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Russia threatens to strike US if it sends missiles to Europe

Vladimir Putin's Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly. (Kremlin/Released)
February 20, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin again threatened the United States on Wednesday, this time saying Russia would launch an attack on the U.S. if the country were to do something confrontational.

Putin told the Russian parliament during his annual state of the nation speech that while the country would not be involved in confrontation activities or be the first to deploy a missile, it would act in response to any intermediate-range missile deployed to Europe from the U.S.

Although the U.S. currently has missiles deployed to Europe, the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty prohibited short-range missiles (from 310–620 miles) and intermediate-range missiles (from 620-3,420 miles). Now that the U.S. has withdrawn from the treaty, it could free them to expand deployment of these missiles.

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He noted that Russia would target the U.S. and its allies who choose to host such missile activities following the suspension of the INF Treaty. He would also direct new weapons to strike key “decision-making centers” in the U.S., hinting at Washington, D.C.

“It’s their right to think how they want. But can they count? I’m sure they can. Let them count the speed and the range of the weapons systems we are developing,” Putin said, eliciting applause.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy types of weapons which can be used not only in respect of those territories from which the direct threat to us originates, but also in respect of those territories where the centers of decision-making are located,” he said.

Putin noted that any intermediate-range missiles deployed by the U.S. would pose a significant threat to Russia.

“The capability of such weapons, including the time to reach those centers, will be equivalent to the threats against Russia,” he noted.

“They will only take 10-12 minutes to reach Moscow,” he said. “It’s a very serious threat to us, and we will have to respond.”

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Putin blames the treaty’s suspension on the U.S. for shifting blame on Russia for treaty violations while abandoning the agreement in favor of building new missiles.

“Our American partners should have honestly said it instead of making unfounded accusations against Russia to justify their withdrawal from the treaty,” Putin said.

On Feb. 1, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty.

Pompeo explained that Russia has been violating the treaty for 30 years while the U.S. has adhered to it. Despite those violations, the U.S. has attempted to maintain the agreement.

“To this day, Russia remains in material breach of its treaty obligations not to produce, possess, or flight test a ground-launched intermediate cruise missile system with a range between 500 and 5500 kilometers,” Pompeo had said.