Putin Threatens to Target US if America Deploys Missiles Near Russia

By Zachary Stieber

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he will target the United States if missiles are deployed near Russia.

Putin made the comments on Feb. 20 during his annual speech to the Russian Federal Assembly.

“Launching missile targets and developing launch installations in Romania and Poland capable of employing Tomahawk winged missiles, the United States directly and crudely violates these demands of the treaty,” he said, reported Reuters. “Russia will be forced to create and develop weapons, which can be used not only toward those territories that from which direct threats may be directed at us, but also toward those territories where centers of decisionmaking in employing rocket systems that are threatening to us.”

Russia missile system
Components of SSC-8/9M729 cruise missile system are on display during a news briefing, organized by Russian defense and foreign ministries, at Patriot Expocentre near Moscow, Jan. 23, 2019. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Placing missiles in countries close to Russia would prompt retaliation, Putin said.

“They will only take 10-12 minutes to reach Moscow,” he said, speaking of missiles placed near Russia. “It’s a very serious threat to us, and we will have to respond.”

The threat is the latest in a series of moves revolving around missiles, Russia, and the United States.

Talks on remaining in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty broke down in late January as Washington alleged Moscow violated the treaty by testing a new missile known as the SSC-8.

Russia revealed the missile a week prior in an attempt to challenge the assertation that it violated the pact, two days after a top American official called for the destruction of the missile system. Russian officials claimed the missile fell six miles short of the range prohibited by the treaty but wouldn’t let American officials see a test of the range.

The treaty prohibited Russia and the United States from deploying ground-launched missiles with ranges of 300 to 3,400 miles.

After Russia declined to destroy the missile, the United States in early February suspended participation in the treaty, prompting Russia to do the same.

“Russia’s violation puts millions of Europeans and Americans at greater risk,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a briefing after the announcement. “It aims to put the United States at a military disadvantage and it undercuts the chances of moving our bilateral relationship in a better direction.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a news briefing at the State Department in Washington, on Feb. 1, 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“It’s our duty to respond appropriately,” he added. “When an agreement is so brazenly disregarded and our security is so openly threatened, we must respond.”

NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said that all European countries besides Russia supported the United States. “Russia has violated the treaty for several years,” he said.

In his Wednesday speech, Putin accused the United States of suspending involvement in the treaty not because Russia was in violation but because American officials want to be free to build new missiles. They also hoped to blame Russia, he said.

“Our American partners should have honestly said it instead of making unfounded accusations against Russia to justify their withdrawal from the treaty,” Putin said, reported The Associated Press.

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks in the Rose Garden
President Donald Trump delivers remarks in the Rose Garden at the White House, on Feb. 15, 2019. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Putin also outlined the latest weapons that Russia has developed, including hypersonic glide vehicles that are capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound. He said they’d be ready to be deployed this year.

He also said that tests of three new weapons—the Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, and the Poseidon nuclear-powered underwater drone—have been progressing successfully and that the first submarine equipped to carry the Poseidon would be commissioned later this year.

Yet another weapon, the Zircon hypersonic missile, which is said to be capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound and has a range of 620 miles, will be deployed soon, according to Putin. The missile was designed to fit existing ships and submarines.

vladimir putin gives annual speech
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a state-of-the-nation address in Moscow, on Feb. 20, 2019. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo)

During the speech, Putin claimed that some American policymakers are obsessed with American exceptionalism and said the United States should think before taking any action.

“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,” he bragged.

Still, if possible, Russia doesn’t want to fight, he added.

“We don’t want confrontation, particularly with such a global power as the U.S.,” he said.