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Putin Open To Other States Joining Russia-U.S. Nuclear Pact

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested he is open to the idea of other countries joining a Cold War nuclear-arms treaty between Russia and the United States or to starting talks on a new pact.

Speaking on December 18, Putin also repeated his denial of U.S. accusations that Russia is violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), saying Moscow has plenty of missiles with similar ranges that do not breach the pact.

And amid tension over U.S. plans to withdraw from the bilateral 1987 pact, Putin said Russia has weapons that should "make those who have become accustomed to militaristic and aggressive rhetoric" think twice.

Washington said earlier this month that it will abandon the treaty unless Moscow returns to compliance with the accord within 60 days.

The INF prohibits Russia and the United States from producing, possessing, and deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

President Donald Trump announced in October that the United States would withdraw from the agreement, citing alleged Russian violations and concerns that the bilateral treaty binds Washington to restrictions while leaving nuclear-armed countries that are not signatories, such as China, free to develop and deploy the missiles.

Moscow denies it is in breach of the accord and accuses the United States of violating it. Washington denies that.

Speaking at a Defense Ministry meeting, Putin said there was nothing to stop Russia and the United States from holding talks with other countries about the possibility of them joining the INF Treaty in a bid to salvage it.

"Yes, indeed, there are certain difficulties with this treaty," Putin said. "Other countries possessing short- and intermediate-range missiles are not party to it.

"But what prevents [us] from starting talks on their accession to the existing treaty or starting to negotiate the parameters of a new treaty?" Putin asked.

He also said that Russia could easily make and deploy land-based intermediate-range missiles if the United States ditched the accord.

"Whatever the complaints about the treaty, in the current conditions it plays a stabilizing role [and] works to support a certain level of predictability and restraint in the military sphere," the Russian president said.

In a tweet on December 3, Trump expressed certainty that "at some time in the future" he, Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping "will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race."

While suggesting the INF treaty could be saved, revamped, or replaced by bringing in other countries, Putin also asserted that Russia has no need to violate it -- but could swiftly develop weapons prohibited by the pact if the United States pulls out.

He asserted that it has successfully tested air-launched Kh-101 and sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles with a range of 4,500 kilometers in combat in Syria.

This has "probably made our partners worry, but it doesn't violate the INF treaty," Putin said.

Russia could develop and deploy land-based intermediate-range missiles if the United States ditches the accord, Putin said.

"If we have similar air- and sea-launched systems, it wouldn't be that difficult for us to do some research and development to put them on land if needed," Putin said.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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