John Bolton, the US national security adviser, has met with Russian President Vladimir Putinin Moscow.
Speaking at a news conference after the talks on Tuesday, Bolton said Washington wanted to withdraw from a key nuclear weapons control treaty with Russia since it was confident Moscow had violated it.
He also said that the danger to Europe was not the prospective US pull out from the 31-year-old Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty but “the threat is the Russian missiles already deployed”.
Bolton also pointed at China’s massive intermediate-range capability as another key concern.
“The treaty was outmoded and being violated by other countries,” he said. “Under that view, exactly one country was restrained by the INF – the United States.”
On his part, Putin said Russia was sometimes surprised by what he said were unprovoked actions taken by the United States against Moscow.
He also poked fun at the official seal of the US, which includes a bald eagle holding a bundle of 13 arrows in one talon and an olive branch with 13 olives in another.
“I have a question: Has your eagle picked all the olives and only has arrows left?” Putin asked with a laugh.
But while underlining the differences between Russia and the US, Putin also emphasised the need to maintain a dialogue, saying he would be ready to meet with US President Donald Trump in Paris during centenary commemorations next month marking the end of World War I.
Bolton said he believed Trump would look forward to it, adding that it was important for Moscow and Washington to focus on areas where there was a possibility of mutual cooperation.
“Hopefully, I will have some answers for you,” he said. “But I didn’t bring any more olives.”
“That’s what I thought,” Putin quipped.
The meeting on Tuesday followed discussions between Bolton and top Russian officials, including Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, in which the national security adviser laid out Trump ‘s issues with.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, said Moscow did not want the US to end the INF treaty as there were no prospects for a substitute agreement.
“Ruining the treaty in a situation where even hints at concluding a new one do not exist is something that we do not welcome,” he said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.
“Quitting the agreement first and then discussing the hypothetical, ephemeral possibility of concluding a new treaty is a pretty risky stance,” Peskov was quoted as saying.
The INF treaty was signed in December 1987 by the then-US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
It resolved a crisis that had begun in the 1980s with the deployment of Soviet SS-20 nuclear-tipped, intermediate-range ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals.
By signing the agreement, Washington and Moscow swore off of possessing, producing or test-flying any ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500km.