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story.lead_photo.caption Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (left) arrives Wednesday for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin outside Moscow. In remarks to Russian news agencies, Putin warned that Russia will follow suit if Washington exits the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and starts developing missiles banned under the accord. His threat came a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a NATO gathering accused Russia of treaty “cheating” by developing a new cruise missile.

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday warned the United States that if it walks out of a key arms treaty and starts developing the type of missiles banned by the agreement, Russia will do the same.

Putin's remarks to Russian news agencies on Wednesday came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at a NATO meeting that Washington will suspend its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 60 days, citing Russian "cheating."

The U.S. has shared intelligence evidence with its NATO allies that it says 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. Russia has denied the accusations.

President Donald Trump earlier this year announced his decision to withdraw from the treaty, accusing Russia and China -- which is not a signatory to the treaty -- of violating it.

Putin on Wednesday accused the United States of making up excuses for pulling out of the pact, saying that the U.S. first made up its mind to walk out of it and only then "started to look for the reasons why they should do it."

"It seems that our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that the U.S. has to have this type of weapons," he said in televised remarks. "What would be our response? A very simple one: In that case, we will do the same."

Speaking at a briefing of foreign military attaches earlier, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of staff of the Russian military, warned of a Russian response and said that it would be the countries that host U.S. intermediate-range missiles that would become immediate targets for Russia.

"If the [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty] is destroyed, we won't leave it without a response," he said, according to an official transcript. "You as military professionals must understand that the target for Russian retaliation won't be U.S. territory but the countries where the intermediate-range missiles are deployed."

When signed in 1987, the treaty was lauded as a major safeguard for global security since it eliminated shorter-range missiles that take just a few minutes to reach their targets. The removal of such destabilizing weapons would in theory allow more time for decision-making in case of a warning of a missile attack.

The U.S. has said it has no plans to deploy land-based nuclear missiles in Europe once it pulls out of the treaty.

U.S. ally Germany, which has been keen to preserve the treaty, called on Russia to try to save it while it still has the time.

"The [treaty] is of great significance for security in Europe," government spokesman Ulrike Demmer said Wednesday in Berlin. "The German government welcomes the fact that the American government is giving its preservation another chance," she added, referring to the 60-day deadline. She also noted that the issue came up in a meeting Saturday between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Trump in Argentina.

"It is now up to Russia to avert the end of the treaty," Demmer said.

Earlier Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said it's deployed laser weapons, one of several systems Putin touted as a new generation of armaments during his annual address in March.

The Peresvet laser was deployed by the army on Saturday, the ministry said in an emailed statement.

Putin in March described the new arms as Russia's response to the U.S. decision in 2002 to pull out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and develop its global defense shield.

Information for this article was contributed by Nataliya Vasilyeva and Geir Moulson of The Associated Press; and by Stepan Kravchenko of Bloomberg News.

A Section on 12/06/2018

Print Headline: Missile race set to return, U.S. told

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