MOSCOW – Russia does not seek an arms race, only protection, declared Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly after suspending the INF Treaty, in a mirrored response to the United States. Moscow is open to a new arms reduction agreement, but the US must reciprocate, he added.
In an extensive interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Thursday, Putin pointed to the gigantic gap between US and Russian defense budgets to reject the notion that Moscow might want to enter an arms race.
“Compare how much Russia spends on defense – about $48 billion and how much the United States spends – over $700 billion. Where is the arms race? We will not allow ourselves to be dragged into such a race, but we must ensure our safety,” Putin said.
Reaching a comprehensive arms reduction agreement is what Moscow is looking for, but Washington does not seem so willing, he said.
“Russia has the political will to work on it. Now it’s the US turn,” Putin said.
He pointed out that Moscow had never heard of the Trump administration after offering to sign a joint statement on the inadmissibility of nuclear war in October, the same month that the US president announced his intention to withdraw unilaterally from the Nuclear Weapons Treaty Intermediate (INF).
Washington cited Russia’s alleged violations as it dismantled the cornerstone of European security, allegations that Moscow vehemently denied. In a mirrored response, Russia also suspended the treaty. Putin signed the corresponding bill into law on Wednesday.
The treaty banned nuclear and non-nuclear ballistic and nuclear missiles launched into the ground, with a range of up to 5,000km.
After withdrawing the US from the INF, Trump signaled that he would like to discuss a trilateral nuclear pact that would also include China. The president of the United States said he discussed the possibility of making a “three-way agreement” on a phone call in May.
Despite this rhetoric, Trump has been aggressively expanding the already huge US nuclear arsenal, spending billions of dollars in its construction. Last week, Trump bragged about the US war industry producing “new nuclear weapons” that he “hopefully” would never use.