Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday stated that he will target the U.S. if Washington deploys nuclear missiles in Europe.
According to Reuters, Putin said that Russia would not make the first move or initiate the confrontation, but warned the U.S. against putting short- or intermediate-range missiles in Europe.
“It’s their right to think how they want. But can they count? I’m sure they can. Let them count the speed and the range of the weapons systems we are developing,” Putin told a gathering of Russia’s political elite, according to the news service.
“Russia will be forced to create and deploy types of weapons which can be used not only in respect of those territories from which the direct threat to us originates, but also in respect of those territories where the centers of decision-making are located,” he added.
Putin also argued that Moscow would be forced to respond if the U.S. placed missiles in Europe as it would reduce the time for the weapons to reach Russia.
Putin’s remarks were his sharpest yet in the wake of the U.S. decision to stop complying with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
The agreement, signed by then-President Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, bans nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
The U.S. said ahead of its withdrawal announcement that Russia had not complied with the treaty for years.
Putin’s comments threaten to further stoke tensions between Moscow and the U.S. and its allies.
President Trump has drawn criticism for his warm rhetoric toward Putin and his stated desire for closer ties with Russia.