“If the missile announced by Congress indeed makes it into the American arsenal, we will have to develop and adopt the same thing. Russia has the military and technical capacities for that,” Viktor Bondarev, the head of the Defense and Security Committee of Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federal Council, has said.
On Wednesday, US legislators allocated $58 million to counter Russia’s alleged non-compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. The sum was part of the $700 billion proposed in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year 2018.
The measures to counter alleged Russian activities include a “research and development program on a ground-launched intermediate-range missile,” which, somehow, should not violate the treaty itself. The 1987 deal bans missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500km.
However, Russian lawmakers have no doubt the violation would be unavoidable, and warned that Moscow will have to respond immediately. “It will entirely contradict the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty,” Vladimir Shamanov, the head of the Russian lower house Defense Committee and the former head of Russia’s airborne troops, said on Thursday. “Our president said: ‘the response will be instant,’” referring to earlier comments by Vladimir Putin.
“We are going to comply with its [INF] terms, provided our partners do so,” Putin said in October at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi. “If they decide to abandon it, however, our response will be instant and symmetrical.” The US had previously threatened to scrap the treaty altogether.
While Washington did not provide any proof that Russia had violated the INF, top US and NATO officials have repeatedly presented it as a given fact. US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday that “many” NATO nations allegedly have “their own evidence of what Russia has been up to.” Mattis added: “We have a firm belief now over several years that the Russians have violated the INF and our effort is to bring Russia back into compliance.”
Russia and the US have been trading accusations of INF treaty violations for several years already. Moscow listed the target missiles for testing anti-ballistic missile technology, the US drone program and ground placement of a naval vertical launch system as part of the Aegis Ashore program as violations of the treaty.