Russia Will Target U.S. if Nukes Deployed in Europe, Putin Warns

In toughest remarks yet on potential new arms race, Russian president said he would not be first to deploy missiles in response to Washington's decision to quit landmark treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address in Moscow, February 20, 2019.
Alexander Nemenov/AFP

Russia will respond to any U.S. deployment of short or intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe by targeting not only the countries where they are stationed, but the United States itself, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday. 

In his toughest remarks yet on a potential new arms race, Putin said Russia was not seeking confrontation and would not take the first step to deploy missiles in response to Washington's decision this month to quit a landmark Cold War-era arms control treaty

But he said that Russia's reaction to any deployment would be resolute and that U.S. policy-makers, some of whom he said were obsessed with U.S. exceptionalism, should calculate the risks before taking any steps. 

"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 told Russia's political elite to strong 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.