Russian President Vladimir Putin is warning of a new arms race if U.S. President Donald Trump follows through with his threat to pull out of a key arms control agreement.
After talks in Moscow with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Putin said Russia would respond "in kind" if the U.S. deployed intermediate-range missiles in Europe.
"If they will deliver them to Europe, naturally our response will have to mirror this," Putin said, adding that the Russian response would be "very quick and effective."
He also cautioned that European countries agreeing to host U.S. missiles would put themselves at risk of a Russian attack.
Meeting in November?
But Putin said he wanted to discuss the issue with Trump if the two meet in Paris next month. Both will be attending ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
"I don't understand why we should put Europe in such a grave danger. I see no reason for that. … We are ready to work with our American partners without any hysterics," Putin said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday blamed Russia for violating the arms control treaty Trump wants to abandon. But he said he did not foresee a nuclear arms buildup in Europe.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987. It bans the United States and Russia from building, testing and stockpiling ground-launched nuclear missiles with a range of 500 to 5,000 kilometers (310 to 3,100 miles).
Trump has accused Russia of violating the treaty by deploying land-based cruise missiles that pose a threat to NATO.
Russia denies violating the INF pact and says it is U.S. missile defense systems in Europe and other unprovoked steps that are in violation.
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, who met with Putin on Tuesday in Moscow, called Russian violations of the treaty "long and deep."
"The threat is not America's INF withdrawal. … The threat is Russian missiles already deployed," Bolton said. "The American position is that Russia is in violation. Russia's position is that they are not in violation. So, one has to ask how to ask the Russians to come back into compliance with something that they don't think they are violating."
But Bolton has implied that the INF deal with Russia might have run its course. He believes bilateral Cold War treaties may not apply to the current global security environment when other nations, including China, Iran and North Korea, have also developed missiles.