President Putin has rejected the US claim that Russia has developed a new cruise missile in violation of a key nuclear treaty, arguing that Russia has no need for such a land-based weapon because it already has similar missiles on its ships and aircraft.
Washington warned this month it would suspend its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in 60 days if Russia did not return to full compliance.
As reported by AP, Moscow has repeatedly denied the accusation. Speaking to Russia's top military brass on December 18th, Putin rejected the US claim of developing a land-based cruise missile, saying Russia now has similar air- and sea-launched weapons to do the job.
Putin said the Russian military has successfully tested air-launched Kh-101 and sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles with a range of 4,500 kilometres (2,790 miles) in combat in Syria.
Putin said, “it has probably made our partners worry, but it does not violate the INF treaty.”
Putin said the treaty signed by President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev didn't limit sea- and air-launched cruise missiles, which the Soviet Union did not have at the time and the United States did in significant numbers.
The Russian president argued that the pact represented "unilateral disarmament" for the Soviet Union, adding: "God only knows why the Soviet leadership did it."
He emphasized that with Russian strategic bombers and navy ships now armed with long-range cruise missiles, it makes the development of similar land-based weapons redundant.
"It makes no difference whatsoever if we have a Kalibr-armed submarine or aircraft carrying missiles or similar weapons ashore," he said. "We can strike any targets within a range of 4,500 kilometres from the territory of Russia.”
Putin added, however, that Russia could easily build such land-based missiles if the US opts out of the INF Treaty, which he described as a key stabilising factor.
"If we have similar air- and sea-launched systems, it wouldn't be that difficult for us to do some research and development to put them on land if needed," he said.
Putin added that Russia also has other new weapons that aren't banned by the INF, such as the air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missile and the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, saying they have significantly bolstered Russia's military capability.
"No one else has hypersonic weapons yet, but we have them," he said.