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2 Feb, 2019 09:58

Putin greenlights creation of hypersonic mid-range missile as US suspends INF Treaty

Putin greenlights creation of hypersonic mid-range missile as US suspends INF Treaty

Russia will start developing a new type of mid-range missile as it suspends the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). The decision comes in response to the US halting its participation in the agreement.

"I agree with the proposal… to create a ground-based hypersonic mid-range missile," President Vladimir Putin said during a meeting with the nation’s defense chief and foreign minister on Saturday. He also endorsed the army’s suggestion to make a ground-based model of the Kalibr cruise missile, which is currently fitted on planes, warships, and submarines.

However, if Moscow acquires short and mid-range missiles, it won’t deploy them in Europe or “other regions of the world” unless Washington does it first, Putin explained.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu explained that making the new weapon will be a “retaliatory measure” against the US, which he said has already been developing its own short and mid-range missiles, “in real breach” of the INF Treaty.

Russia’s foreign affairs chief, Sergei Lavrov, also stressed that Washington acted in “direct violation” of the 1987 deal. Among other ways, it has been done by deploying Mk 41 launchers in Europe as part of the US missile defense program. The launchers are “absolutely capable” of carrying mid-range Tomahawk missiles and that can be done easily and “without modification.”

Putin announced earlier that Russia is halting its participation in the INF Treaty. This was done in response to a six-month suspension of the agreement by Washington.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty banned all ground-based missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500km, as well as their launchers. The US threatened to scrap the deal, unless Moscow stops testing and deploying its 9M729 missiles, which Washington claims exceed the permitted range. Russia denied the accusations, maintaining that the tests were done in strict accordance with the agreement.

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