Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that if the US withdraws from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and begins making previously banned mid-range missiles, Russia would also make the same type of weapon.
"What is our side's response? It's simple. We will do the same," Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript.
The Kremlin also dismissed US claims that Russia is violating the major Cold War treaty that limits mid-range nuclear arms, from which Washington is planning to withdraw.
"Groundless accusations are again being repeated," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Russia in "material breach" of the INF treaty.
"No proof has been produced to support this American position," Zakharova said, describing the treaty as a "cornerstone of global stability and international security."
Cold War treaty
The treaty was initially signed in 1987 by then-US president Ronald Reagan and former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The INF treaty resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles that targeted Western capitals.
At a meeting with fellow NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday, Pompeo said that the US would withdraw from the deal within 60 days if Moscow does not dismantle missiles that Washington says violate it. NATO said it was now "up to Russia" to save the treaty.
On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the trans-Atlantic alliance is preparing "for a world without the treaty," saying that Russia has "a last chance" to come into compliance.
In October, President Donald Trump sparked global concern by declaring the United States would pull out of the treaty and build up America's nuclear stockpile "until people come to their senses".
However, Trump on Monday said he wanted to talk with his Chinese and Russian counterparts Xi Jinping and Putin "to head off a major and uncontrollable arms race."
In 2007, Putin had said it would be "difficult" for Russia to remain in the 1987 US-Russian Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) unless it was expanded to include other countries.
rs, av/amp (AFP, AP, dpa)