By Stefan J. Bos
Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Russian President Putin condemned a decision by the United States to suspend its participation in what is known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).
He made clear that in his view the US decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty “has long been made.” Putin claimed the decision was made “sneakily” since in his words the “US Congress allocated money for Research and Development for the creation of intermediate-range and short-range missiles, banned within the treaty."
The Russian leader also said the US “started to think whom they could blame." He added that saying "Russia is to blame" is the "easiest thing to conclude for an ordinary Western person.” However, Putin warned that Russia opposes the annulment of the INF Treaty, and would “react accordingly” if it happens.
His remarks came after the U.S. shared what it called intelligence evidence with allies of the NATO military alliance that allegedly shows that Russia’s new SSC-8 ground-fired cruise missile could give Moscow the ability to launch a nuclear strike in Europe with little or no notice.
Alleged Russian violations
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Brussels that it was part of broader Russian violations of the INF Treaty and its aggression elsewhere in the world. "These violations of the INF Treaty cannot be viewed in isolation from the larger pattern of Russian lawlessness on the world stage," he said.
"The list of Russia’s infamous acts is long: Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, election meddling, Skripal, and now the Kerch Strait, to name just a few," Pompeo added.
"In light of these facts, the United States today declares it has found Russia in material breach of the treaty and will suspend our obligations as a remedy effective in 60 days unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance," he said.
NATO later stressed that it supports the U.S. assessment that Russia had violated the treaty, signed in 1987.
Russia has denied the accusations, but the latest standoff has added to international concern about the ongoing worst East-West tensions
since the Cold War.