Putin Says Russia Could Target US if New Missiles Put in Europe

20 February, 2019

President Vladimir Putin says Russia is prepared to target American "decision-making centers" if the United States sends new missiles to Europe.

The Russian leader spoke Wednesday during his state-of-the-nation address in Moscow. He said Russia would answer any U.S. move to deploy new missiles closer to Russia by stationing its own new missiles closer to America or by deploying faster missiles.

Putin said Russia does not plan to be the first to deploy new intermediate-range nuclear missiles. But he warned of possible action against new U.S. nuclear missile deployments in Europe that would put the weapons much closer to Russia.

"They will only take 10-12 minutes to reach Moscow," Putin said. "It's a very serious threat to us, and we will have to respond."

He said Russia could deploy new weapons of its own that would be designed to reach enemy targets just as quickly.

"Russia will be forced to create and deploy new types of weapons that could be used not only against the territories where a direct threat to us comes from, but also against the territories where decision-making centers directing the use of missile systems threatening us are located," he said.

In his address, Putin also spoke about the U.S. plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF. American president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the treaty in 1987. It banned the production, testing and deployment of land-based missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

A still image taken from a video footage and released by Russia's Defense Ministry, Dec. 26, 2018, shows a test launch of an Avangard new hypersonic missile in Orenburg Region.
A still image taken from a video footage and released by Russia's Defense Ministry, Dec. 26, 2018, shows a test launch of an Avangard new hypersonic missile in Orenburg Region.

Intermediate-range weapons were seen as especially dangerous because they reach their targets much faster than long-range missiles. An attack with intermediate-range missiles would leave effectively no time for decision-makers to react, raising the possibility of a world nuclear conflict over a false launch warning.

The U.S. has accused Russia of violating the INF treaty by deploying a kind of missile that violates its limits.

Putin said the U.S. accusations were "unfounded" and were used to "justify (America's) withdrawal from the treaty." He added that the move will also give the U.S. the chance to build and deploy new missiles.

The president did not explain how or where Russia planned to deploy missiles with a shorter strike time. One possibility would be to put them on land of an ally near U.S. territory.

Russia could also deploy faster missiles on submarines, or use one of the hypersonic weapons it says it has been developing. Such weapons are called hypersonic because they operate at an extremely high speed. They can travel as fast as several times the speed of sound.

Putin said a new submarine designed to carry an underwater drone with nuclear strike capability - called Poseidon - would be launched this spring.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

intermediate adj. between the highest and lowest levels of something

respond v. say or do something as an answer or reaction to something that has been said or done

located v. to be in a particular place

justify v. give a good reason to make something seem acceptable

drone n. a kind of small air vehicle that flies without a pilot