Following the final collapse and formal pull out by both sides of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty earlier this month, which was preceded by months of threats and counter-threats between the US and Russia, Moscow says it will refrain from deploying new missiles previously banned under the treaty so long as Washington shows similar restraint.
Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu made the pledge during statements Sunday. “We still stick to that. Unless there are such systems in Europe (deployed by Washington), we won’t do anything there,” he told the Rossiya-24 TV channel, as cited by Reuters.
Though both sides accused the other of violating the landmark treaty signed in 1987 between Reagan and Gorbachev, Shoigu said Russia had repeatedly urged to keep the door of dialogue open. "Between February and August 2, we kept on opening doors," he noted.
"We are keeping the door open. As long as the US doesn’t deploy such systems to Europe, we won’t do the same, and as long as there are no US missiles in Asia, there won’t be our missiles in the region," the defense minister said.
He also claimed that Russia's Defense Ministry had issued a formal invitation for US representatives to attend a briefing on the 9M729 missile in Moscow, but that American officials refused to attend.
The Novator 9M729 is precisely the missile that Washington officials have focused their charge that Moscow violated the INF on, given the land-based cruise missile is believed to have a range that falls between 500km and 5,500km - making it illegal under the terms of the treaty.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has recently signaled it's looking to deploy new mid-range missiles somewhere in Asia or the Pacific. In early August, just a day after the formal end of the INF, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon is looking to deploy intermediate range conventional missiles in the Pacific region "within months".
This is perhaps why Shoigu specifically mentioned Asia in addition to Europe in his remarks: "...and as long as there are no US missiles in Asia, there won’t be our missiles in the region," he said.