Putin’s remarks on Monday came after he ordered the defence and foreign ministries as well as Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service to closely monitor any steps the US took to develop, produce or deploy missiles banned under the now-defunct Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.
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“If Russia obtains reliable information that the United States has finished developing these systems and started to produce them, Russia will have no option other than to engage in a full-scale effort to develop similar missiles,” Putin said in a statement.
Russia “will not deploy them in relevant regions until American-made missiles are deployed there,” he said.
Unless there are new talks about strategic security, “this scenario means restarting an uncontrolled arms race”, Putin added.
“In order to avoid chaos that has no rules, limits and laws, one needs to once again weigh all possible dangerous consequences and start serious dialogue without any ambiguities,” Putin said. “We are ready for it.”
The INF treaty was signed in 1987 by US president Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the then leaders of the US and the Soviet Union, respectively.
The US formally left the accord on Friday after determining that Moscow was violating the treaty and had already deployed at least one banned type of missile, an accusation the Kremlin denies.
The treaty banned land-based missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500km, reducing the ability of both countries to launch a nuclear attack on short notice.
Mark Esper, the US secretary of defence, said at the weekend that he would like to deploy new intermediate-range missiles in Asia, but denied that this would lead to an arms race as the weapons were not nuclear.
“Right now, we don’t have plans to build nuclear-tipped INF range weapons,” he said. “So I don’t see an arms race happening.”
The other key arms deal between Russia and the US is the New START treaty, which keeps the nuclear arsenals of both countries well below their Cold War peak.
The deal expires in 2021 and it is likely not to be renewed amid the current chill in US-Russian relations, experts say.
The US and Russia own more than 90 percent of global nuclear stockpiles, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, a US think tank.