On Tuesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin warned that his country’s new missiles should provide other countries “food for thought” before they think about attacking Russia.
“These weapons will multiply the potential of our army and navy, thus reliably and absolutely ensuring Russia’s security for decades ahead,” Putin said in an address to his defense advisers, according to the Kremlin’s transcript.
“I hope our new systems will provide food for thought to those who are used to militaristic and aggressive rhetoric,” he added.
Putin’s comments were a thinly veiled threat to Western leaders. He complained that “NATO continued to build up its military infrastructure near our borders during the year,” and condemned the U.S. threat to pull out of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
Putin called U.S. allegations that Russia has violated the treaty “unsubstantiated accusations,” instead accusing the U.S. of being the one to violate the 1987 arms-control agreement. “They are the ones violating the treaty with the deployment of Aegis systems in Romania,” Putin stated, referring to a U.S. ballistic-missile-defense system in that area.
Two weeks ago, secretary of state Mike Pompeo gave Russia 60 days to clear up alleged violations of the arms deal or risk a U.S. suspension of its obligations under the agreement. New missiles Russia has been testing appear to fall afoul of the treaty’s prohibition on firing ground-based intermediate-range missiles, and would make it uncomplicated for Russia to launch a nuclear attack on NATO countries, the U.S. argued.
“Such a step will have the most negative consequences and will noticeably weaken regional and global security,” Putin warned of a potential dissolution of the treaty. “In fact, in the long term, it may result in the degradation and even collapse of the entire architecture of arms control and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”
If the U.S. follows through on scrapping the treaty, “we will be forced to take additional measures to strengthen our security,” the Russian president warned.
He added, however, that he did not agree with the way Soviet leaders negotiated the original deal.
“The United States had sea- and air-based missiles, while we did not. Therefore, from the point of view of the Soviet Union, this was unilateral disarmament,” he said. “God knows why the Soviet leaders decided to go ahead with unilateral disarmament.”
Russia’s first defense priority in the coming year is to “further strengthen the combat potential of the strategic nuclear forces,” the Russian leader said. Other priorities include combat training and military cooperation with allies.