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Putin claims US ‘deliberately’ ignoring missile offer, goads US allies

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Russian television, June 20, 2019. (Kremlin/Released)

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States and NATO of intentionally ignoring Moscow’s offer of a moratorium on the deployment of short- and intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

Speaking at a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit in Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, Putin said he had sent “a message on the matter to the leaders of many countries.”

“I think the United States is deliberately refraining from providing a response,” he said.

Washington recently formally withdrew from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty following years of accusations that Moscow had developed, then deployed, a ground-launched cruise missile in violation of the treaty’s restrictions.

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The move, reciprocated by Moscow, sparked concerns of a new arms race between the world’s leading nuclear-armed powers.

Russian newspaper Kommersant last month reported that Putin had sent his new moratorium proposal to NATO, Chinese, and EU officials.

The United States had long argued that Moscow’s development and deployment of the SSC-8 (9M729 in Russian classification), a ground-launched cruise missile, violated the INF’s terms.

Russia has denied the accusation.

Western intelligence agencies have accused Putin of seeking to drive a wedge between Washington and its European allies on a range of issues from missile defense, to Russian military actions in Ukraine, to policies on Iran and Syria.

He appeared to be aiming to sow division again in Ashgabat.

“As for U.S. allies,” Putin said at the CIS gathering, “they cannot respond on their own, because in this regard, their sovereignty is limited — they just don’t have a say, they have no personal opinion on the matter.”

“Perhaps, they do have an opinion but they don’t voice it,” Putin added.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told media on September 26 that the alliance had immediately rejected Russia’s proposal because Moscow’s initiative was “untrustworthy.”

Lungescu pointed out that Russia had already deployed SSC-8 missiles on its own territory.

“Before negotiations, they need to destroy these missiles in a verifiable way,” she said.