Russian president accuses US of raising risk of nuclear war

President Vladimir Putin stressed that not only the INF Treaty, but also the New START pact hangs by a threat

Photo: EPA Russian President Vladimir Putin

President Vladimir Putin accused the United States of raising the risk of nuclear war by threatening to spurn a key arms control treaty and refusing to hold talks about another pact that expires soon. He also cautioned against the "unpredictable consequences," such move could possibly cause.

In a news conference on Thursday that lasted more than three hours, Putin, however, backed US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria, stressed that British Prime Minister Theresa May had no choice but to implement Brexit and warned that Western democracy was under serious strain.

The annual event, the 14th of its kind, is used by Putin to burnish his leadership credentials and send messages to foreign allies and foes. This year, he made clear his biggest worry was what he called a dangerous new arms race, something he accused Washington of stoking by turning its back on arms control. As Europost reminds, Trump has threatened to pull out of the 1987 landmark Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) which bans Moscow and Washington from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe. In that regard Putin insisted that such move, if it happened, would have great consequences.

“We are essentially witnessing the breakdown of the international arms control order and (the start of) an arms race,” Putin told more than 1,000 reporters. “It’s very hard to imagine how the situation will develop (if the US quits the INF treaty). If these missiles appear in Europe what should we do? Of course, we’ll have to ensure our own security.”

Meanwhile, as Putin reminded, another US-Russia treaty, the New START pact, which limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads each side can have, expires in 2021. Putin said he was worried that Washington didn’t appear to be interested in discussing its future.

“No talks on extending this are yet being held. Are the Americans not interested, do they not need them? Ok, we’ll survive and will ensure our own security, which we know how to do. But in general, this is very bad for humankind because it takes us closer to a dangerous threshold.”

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