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Putin vows to build new nuclear missile and considers deploying it near NATO countries

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Russia will produce new intermediate-range nuclear missiles and then decide whether to deploy them within range of NATO countries in Europe and American allies in Asia, President Vladimir V. Putin announced on Friday.

Putin’s threat was vague: He did not mention a timetable for deploying the weapons, and by accusing the United States of bringing similar missiles to training exercises in Europe and Asia, he seemed to suggest that he was willing to negotiate.

But his timing was crucial, as he made the announcement just before elections in Britain and France and just before a NATO summit marking its 75th anniversary in Washington on July 9. It appeared to be Putin’s latest attempt to raise the stakes in his conflict with the West, and comes less than two weeks after he visited North Korea. America is on edge and America’s allies in Asia.

USA Withdrawal of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces in 1987 treaty In 2019, during the Trump administration, the United States accused Russia of violating the agreement after years of violations. The treaty prohibits American and Russian militaries from possessing land-based cruise missiles or ballistic missiles with a range between 300 and 3,400 miles.

It was one of a series of withdrawals that marked the end of more than half a century of traditional nuclear arms control, with key agreements negotiated in Washington and Moscow. Only one such treaty remains: New START, which limits the number of intercontinental weapons each country can possess. It expires in February 2026.

Putin could have announced plans to beef up his intermediate-range missile force at any time over the past five years, so his decision now is noteworthy. During that time, the Pentagon has begun deploying some improved weapons in Asia, with the ultimate goal of countering China’s growing nuclear power. But the United States has not yet permanently redeployed any intermediate-range missiles.

Putin, in a brief televised speech on Friday during a videoconference with national security officials, mentioned some recent military exercises in Denmark and suggested the United States might be preparing to leave weapons there.

“We need to respond to this and decide on further steps to take in this regard,” Putin said. “It seems that we need to start producing these attack systems and then decide based on the actual situation where to deploy them if necessary to ensure our security.”

But his motivation may simply be a reaction to recent U.S. actions in Ukraine. President Biden lifts ban On whether Ukraine would be able to launch U.S.-supplied weapons into Russian territory — though he limited it to the area around Kharkiv, where Russia would launch the weapons — Putin made clear there would be a response.

Such missiles were an important part of the Soviet military during the Cold War, but in the early 1990s, the United States withdrew all of its medium-range land-based nuclear cruise and ballistic missiles from Europe, and the Soviet Union destroyed its SS-20 missiles. These moves were seen as important steps to reduce tensions.

But a decade ago, Putin reversed Russia’s move to deploy Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, the Russian region closest to Western European cities, a move the Obama administration charged was a violation of the INF Treaty. But U.S. President Barack Obama decided not to withdraw from the treaty, arguing that it would relieve Putin of any obligations. President Donald J. Trump reversed that decision.

The Pentagon has used the withdrawal to plan the deployment of weapons in the Pacific that were previously banned by the treaty. But military exercises almost always use simulated weapons, not real nuclear weapons.

Threatening to produce more nuclear missiles is also just the latest example of Putin trying to use the power and range of his nuclear arsenal to gain leverage in his war against Ukraine. At the start of the invasion, he ordered the weapons to be put on a higher alert — but apparently never were.

In October 2022, the Biden administration intercepted messages suggesting that Russian generals planned to detonate battlefield nuclear weapons in Ukraine, possibly at a military base. The crisis was defused without any nuclear weapons being used.

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