launch of a missile from a Russian Iskander system
© Sputnik/Stringer
A launch of a missile from a Russian Iskander system. US says that 9M729, one of the Iskander-launched missiles, violates INF.
President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is halting its participation in the Cold War-era INF nuclear agreement after Washington's decision to suspend it. Russia will develop missiles previously forbidden under its terms.

"Ours will be a mirror response. Our US partners say that they are ceasing their participation in the treaty, and we are doing the same," the Russian president said in Moscow on Saturday in reference to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

"They say that they are doing research and testing [on new weapons] and we will do the same thing," Putin said during a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

The Russian leader emphasized that while Moscow's offers on modernizing the 1987 treaty and making it more transparent "are still on the table," no more talks should be initiated with the Americans to try and save it.

"Let's wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic, which is extremely important for us, them, and the entire world," Putin said.

In December, the Trump administration threatened to quit the agreement, which limits nuclear and conventional land-launched missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500km within 60 days, unless Russia stopped allegedly violating it with its 9M729 missile, which Washington claims exceeds the permitted range.

Moscow denied that it had broken the treaty, and offered additional mutual inspections during failed talks in Geneva last month. On February 1, Washington officially confirmed that the bilateral agreement signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan will be suspended for 180 days. Washington also signaled intentions to entirely withdraw from it afterwards.

'US directly violated INF'

During the meeting in front on the cameras on Saturday, Lavrov insisted that Moscow "attempted to do everything we could to rescue the treaty." This included "unprecedented steps going far beyond our obligations," he said, accusing Washington of systematically undermining the INF Treaty at least since the late 1990s.

In particular, Washington started "testing drones that matched the characteristics" of ground-based cruise missiles banned in the treaty.

Later, the US "installed MK 41 launching systems for the defense shield in Europe that can be used to fire mid-range Tomahawk cruise missiles without any modification."

"This is a direct a violation of the INF," Putin interjected.

"Such launchers have already been completed in Romania, more are scheduled to be put into service in Poland and Japan," Lavrov said.

Shoigu went further, saying that despite vague formulations the US has barely concealed that it is "not just conducting research on short and medium-range missiles."
To put it simply, the US has already begun producing these rockets.
Putin said the collapse of the INF is not a one-off, but marks a deliberate policy by Washington that could imperil the landmark New START treaty, which expires in 2021.

"Over many years, we have repeatedly suggested staging new disarmament talks, on all types of weapons. Over the last few years, we have seen our initiatives not supported. On the contrary, pretexts are constantly sought to demolish the existing system of international security," President Putin said.

Putin greenlights creation of hypersonic mid-range missile

Russia will start developing a new type of mid-range missile as it suspends the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). The decision comes in response to the US halting its participation in the agreement.

"I agree with the proposal... to create a ground-based hypersonic mid-range missile," President Vladimir Putin said during a meeting with the nation's defense chief and foreign minister on Saturday. He also endorsed the army's suggestion to make a ground-based model of the Kalibr cruise missile, which is currently fitted on planes, warships, and submarines.

However, if Moscow acquires short and mid-range missiles, it won't deploy them in Europe or "other regions of the world" unless Washington does it first, Putin explained.

Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu explained that making the new weapon will be a "retaliatory measure" against the US, which he said has already been developing its own short and mid-range missiles, "in real breach" of the INF Treaty.

Russia's foreign affairs chief, Sergey Lavrov, also stressed that Washington acted in "direct violation" of the 1987 deal. Among other ways, it has been done by deploying Mk 41 launchers in Europe as part of the US missile defense program. The launchers are "absolutely capable" of carrying mid-range Tomahawk missiles and that can be done easily and "without modification."