A top Russian general said Thursday that Moscow may unilaterally opt out of a key Soviet-era arms reduction treaty with the United States that banned medium-range missiles, Russian news agencies reported. Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the military's General Staff, said Russia could pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, negotiated between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan in 1987.
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
The decision would depend, he said, on whether the US fulfilled its plan to deploy missile defense components in Poland and the Czech Republic, plans that have upset Moscow.
"We shall see what our American partners do," Baluyevsky was quoted by Interfax, ITAR-Tass and RIA Novosti as saying. "Their actions to deploy missile defense sites in Europe are inexplicable."
President Vladimir Putin has said he does not trust US claims that the deployment of missile defense components in Europe was intended to counter missile threats from Iran, and warned that Russia would take retaliatory actions.
At a security conference in Munich on Saturday, Putin said the arms reduction treaty was outdated, and that many nations had since developed medium-range missiles eliminated by Russia and the United States.
The statement was part of larger speech in which he assailed US policy and said that Moscow views NATO's expansion to its borders as a threat.
Relations between Washington and Moscow have been strained also by disagreements on Iraq and other global crisis, and by US concerns about Russia's democracy record and that it is strong-arming ex-Soviet neighbors.
At the time, the 1987 treaty was hailed as a breakthrough that helped improve security on the continent and end the Cold War. Under its provisions, the United States destroyed about 850 of its missiles while the Soviet Union eliminated 1,850 missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (300 and 3,400 miles).
Baluyevsky said Thursday that the treaty allows both Russia and the United States to walk out of it. Following on Putin's remarks, he said the deployment of medium-range missiles by many other nations provided a strong argument for leaving the treaty.
Yuri Solomonov, the head of Moscow-based missile manufacturer that designed and built the latest Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles said it was ready to resume the production of medium-range missiles if the Kremlin made such a decision, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.