Speaking at a meeting of his Security Council, Mr Putin charged that the US waged a “propaganda campaign” alleging Russian breaches of the pact to “untie its hands to deploy the previously banned missiles in different parts of the world”.
He ordered the Defense Ministry and other agencies to “take comprehensive measures to prepare a symmetrical answer”.
In an interview this week with Fox News, Defense Secretary Mark Esper asserted that the Russian cruise missiles Washington has long claimed were a violation of the now-defunct Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty, might be armed with nuclear warheads.
“Right now Russia has possibly nuclear-tipped cruise – INF-range cruise missiles facing toward Europe, and that, that’s not a good thing,” Mr Esper said.
The Russian leader noted that Sunday’s test was performed from a launcher similar to those deployed at a US missile defense site in Romania.
He argued that the Romanian facility and a prospective similar site in Poland could also be loaded with missiles intended to hit ground targets instead of interceptors.
Mr Putin has previously pledged that Russia wouldn’t deploy the missiles previously banned by the INF Treaty to any area before the US does that first, but he noted Friday that the use of the universal launcher means that a covert deployment is possible.
“How would we know what they will deploy in Romania and Poland – missile defense systems or strike missile systems with a significant range?” Mr Putin said.
Russia long has charged that the US launchers loaded with missile defense interceptors could be used for firing surface-to-surface missiles.
Mr Putin said that Sunday’s test has proven that the US denials have been false.
“It’s indisputable now,” the Russian leader said.
He added the missile test that came just 16 days after the INF treaty’s termination has shown that the US long had started work on the new systems banned by the treaty.
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