MISSILES IN EUROPE
Alleging Russian violations, Washington said this month it was suspending its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and starting the process of quitting it, untying its hands to develop new missiles.
The pact banned either side from stationing short and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe and its demise raises the prospect of a new arms race between Washington and Moscow, which denies flouting the treaty.
Russia denies violating the treaty. Putin responded to the US move by saying Russia would mirror the US moves by suspending its own obligations and quitting the pact.
But Putin, who has sometimes used bellicose rhetoric to talk up Russia's standoff with the West and to rally Russians round the flag, did not up the ante.
He did not announce new missile deployments, said money for new systems must come from existing budget funds and declared that Moscow would not deploy new land-based missiles in Europe or elsewhere unless Washington did so first.
On Wednesday, he made clear however that he was ready, reluctantly, to escalate if the United States escalated and that Russia was continuing to actively develop weapons and missile systems to ensure it was well prepared for such an eventuality.
He said any US move to place new missiles in Europe would leave Moscow with no choice but to respond because it would drastically cut the time it took U.S. missiles to reach Russia, something that would pose a direct threat.
He said Russia wanted good ties with the United States, but was ready with its defensive response if necessary.
“We know how to do this and we will implement these plans immediately, as soon as the corresponding threats to us become a reality.”