Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Russia will abandon a centerpiece nuclear arms treaty, following in the footsteps of the United States, and that Moscow will only deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles if Washington does so.
Putin spoke after the U.S. announced Friday it was pulling the plug on the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty over alleged Russian violations.
Moscow denied any breaches and accused Washington of making false accusations in order to justify its pullout.
Following the U.S. notice of withdrawal from the treaty in six months, Putin said in televised remarks Saturday that Russia will do the same. He ordered the development of new land-based intermediate-range weapons, but emphasized that Russia won't deploy them in the European part of the country or elsewhere unless the U.S. does so.
On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement annoncing the withdrawal that Russia "refused to take any steps to return (to) real and verifiable compliance."
A few hours before Pompeo's announcement, the NATO Western security alliance issued a statement saying it would "fully support" the U.S. withdrawal notice.
Speaking before Pompeo's announcement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized the importance of using the six months window to keep talking.
Some experts believe the collapse of the INF treaty could undermine other arms control agreements and speed an erosion of the global system designed to block the spread of nuclear arms.
The United States alleges a new Russian cruise missile violates the pact. The missile, the Novator 9M729, is known as the SSC-8 by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
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