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Putin Says US Withdrawal From INF 'Grave Mistake', Creates Risk of Nuclear Arms Race

© AP PhotoMissiles, SS-23 Destroyed. The 957th and last of the Soviet Union's SS-23 shorter range missiles
Missiles, SS-23 Destroyed. The 957th and last of the Soviet Union's SS-23 shorter range missiles - Sputnik International
In August 2019 the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, citing Russia's alleged violation of the agreement's terms.

Russian President Vladimir Putin Says US exit from Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was a "grave mistake" which creates the risk of a renewal of the nuclear arms race.

"We consider the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, as a result of which it has ceased to operate, a serious mistake that increases the risks of unleashing a missile arms race, increasing confrontational potential and sliding into uncontrolled escalation," reads the statement cited by the Kremlin press service.

According to the Russian president, the INF Treaty, which Washington left back in 2019, was a key element of the global security architecture, and threats to it in Europe were "obvious" due to tensions between NATO and Russia. 

"The Treaty played a special role in maintaining predictability and restraint in the missile-related sector throughout Europe", the president said.

Moscow added that Russia was "ready" to take the necessary steps to play down the impact caused by the Treaty's demise. 

© Sputnik / Alexey Druzhinin / Go to the mediabankRussian President Vladimir Putin
Putin Says US Withdrawal From INF 'Grave Mistake', Creates Risk of Nuclear Arms Race - Sputnik International
Russian President Vladimir Putin

"We also call on all interested countries to search for schemes for maintaining stability and preventing missile crises 'in a world without an INF Treaty' in relation to the Asia-Pacific region. We are open to joint work in this direction," the Russian president said while detailing some concrete measures to decrease Russia-US military tensions.

The president's press secretary Dmitry Peskov later clarified that Putin's initiative was brand-new and had not been previously elaborated with international partners.

The US Exit From INF

In February 2019, Washington announced that it was giving a six-month notice of withdrawal from the INF Treaty, the agreement signed between Russia and the United States back in 1987 which effectively banned all short medium-range and intermediate-range land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and launchers. One of the cited reasons for the US decision was Russia's alleged failure "to return to full and verified compliance through the destruction of its non-compliant missile system".

In August the same year, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the INF, stating that Moscow was "solely responsible for the treaty’s demise".

The Kremlin repeatedly denied these allegations and offered the US the opportunity to continue discussions over the fulfilment of the treaty, but the White House refused.

Earlier Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said that it was confirmed by him that Washington was ready to deploy intermediate and short-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region (APAC). Antonov said that the move suggests that "the range of these missiles would reach the Russian Federation, covering strategic targets of tactical nuclear deterrence", prompting Russia to take "adequate steps" in response. 

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