Russia could deploy missiles on the territory of its allies if the U.S. stations similar weapons in Europe, a senior Russian lawmaker warned Thursday.
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, said the U.S. intention to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty could herald the way for deployment of missiles banned by the pact to Europe.
He warned that if such deployment happens, Russia will target U.S. missiles with its weapons.
Kosachev added that Russia may also respond to such a move by deploying similar missiles closer to its neighbors and, “if necessary, on the territories of our allies.”
Kosachev noted that those options are hypothetical and Russia still hopes that the INF Treaty can be saved.
“We are actively working with all those who are ready to work with Russia to raise the pressure on the U.S. in order to preserve the treaty,” he said.
He didn’t spell out which nations could potentially host Russian missiles. Russia has strong military ties with western neighbor Belarus, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania, and the two allies held joint maneuvers amid tensions with the West.
U.S. President Donald Trump declared his intention last month to withdraw from the INF Treaty over alleged Russian violations. Moscow has denied breaching the pact and accused Washington of violating it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the INF Treaty and other arms control issues will likely top the agenda of his planned meeting with Trump on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Argentina next week.
On Thursday, the Russian leader chaired a meeting on arms industries in Anapa in southern Russia that focused on production of ammunition for the military.
“We need smart precision munitions that would increase the capability of both existing and prospective weapons,” Vladimir Putin said.
The INF Treaty, signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, prohibited the U.S. and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying ground-launched nuclear cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles.)
Such weapons were seen as particularly destabilizing since they take only a few minutes to reach their targets, leaving little time for political leaders to ponder a response and raising the threat of a nuclear war in case of an erroneous attack warning.