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Putin orders Russia military to launch missile in ‘symmetrical’ response to US test

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Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia‘s military to prepare a “symmetrical response” after the US carried out a cruise missile test.

On Monday, US officials confirmed they had tested a non-nuclear cruise missile with a target more than 500 km away. It was the first such test since the US pulled out of a major Cold-War era arms control treaty earlier this month.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which banned ground-launched missiles with a range between 500-5500 km (310 and 3400 miles), was signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in 1987. 

Both sides blame each other for its demise. 

The US says Moscow was in violation from the early 2010s with the development of the 9M729 cruise missile — a claim Russia denies. 

It was only with the election of Donald Trump that the White House made concrete moves to exit the treaty.

Russia on the other hand claimed the US was in violation with ground launchers based in Europe that it claimed were capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles. 

On Friday, Mr Putin said the news of the tests were vindication of Russia’s position. 

“The Americans stubbornly denied this, claiming that the ground-based MK-41 was supposedly unable to launch Tomahawk sea-based cruise missiles,” read a transcript of his remarks published on the Kremlin website. “Now the fact of violation is self-evident, it is impossible to dispute it – they themselves spoke about it ” 

Mr Putin said Russia could not stand idly by, and that US talk of deploying new missiles in the Asia-Pacific region near to Russian borders affected “core interests” 

He told military officials to “study the level of threat posed by these US actions and take exhaustive measures to prepare a symmetrical response”.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said this month he was in favour of placing ground-launched intermediate-range missiles in Asia relatively soon, and Mr Putin complained this week that the United States was now in a position to deploy its new land-based missile in Romania and Poland.

“All this leaves no doubts that the real intention of the United States (in exiting the INF pact) was to … untie its hands to deploy previously banned missiles in different regions of the world,” he said.

“We have never wanted, do not want and will not be drawn into a costly, economically destructive arms race.”

Donald Trump‘s US administration has said it has no imminent plans to deploy new land-based missiles in Europe.

With additional reporting by Reuters

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