President Vladimir Putin says Russia would respond in kind if the United States develops short- and intermediate-range, land-based nuclear missiles following the demise of a key Cold War-era arms control treaty.
"If Russia obtains reliable information whereby the United States completes the development of these systems and starts 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 on August 5.
Putin’s remarks came after the United States on August 2 formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that was signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.
Russia had earlier suspended its participation in the treaty after President Donald Trump on February 1 announced that the United States planned to withdraw from the treaty, suspending its obligations the following day and starting a six-month withdrawal period.
The bilateral INF Treaty banned the Soviet Union and United States from developing, producing, or deploying ground-launched cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
The United States and NATO have accused Russia of violating the pact by deploying the 9M729 missile, also known as the SSC-8.
Moscow denies that the missile violated the treaty and accused the United States of wanting to abandon the pact so it can start a new arms race.
Putin on August 5 blamed Washington for the demise of the treaty but said it was essential for Russia and the United States to resume arms control talks to prevent what he described as an "unfettered" arms race breaking out.
"In order to avoid chaos with no rules, restrictions, or laws, we need to once more weigh up all the dangerous consequences and launch a serious and meaningful dialogue free from any ambiguity," Putin said.
"Russia considers that it is necessary to revive without delay meaningful talks on ensuring strategic stability and security. We are ready to engage in these efforts," he added.
Trump on August 2 told reporters he would like to establish a new accord with Russia that would reduce all nuclear forces, and possibly involve China as well.
Beijing has responded by saying it would “in no way agree to making the INF Treaty multilateral."