Putin has put Europeans on notice. If they allow the Americans to target Russia with intermediate-range missiles from their territory, their territory will be in turn targeted by Russian missiles.
“Answering your question directly, can we respond,” Putin said, when asked what Russia would do if Trump made good on his pledge to leave the treaty. “We can, and it will be very fast and very effective,” he said.
“If the United States does withdraw from the INF treaty, the main question is what they will do with these [intermediate-range] missiles that will once again appear.”
“If they will deliver them to Europe, naturally our response will have to mirror this, and European countries that agree to host them, if things go that far, must understand that they are putting their own territory at risk of a possible counter-strike.”
Putin said he did not understand why it was necessary to put Europe in such danger, saying it was a situation that Russia itself wanted to avoid if possible.
NATO’s top official on Wednesday blamed Russia for breaching the treaty, but said he did not believe the Russian threat would lead to new deployments of U.S. missiles in Europe.
Russia has the option of deploying intermediate-range missiles in its European exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, a move that would put a swath of Europe in range.