The New Arms Race Begins: Putin Orders Military To Respond In Kind To Post-INF US Missile Launch

After last Sunday's first ever Pentagon test of a previously banned ground-launched cruise missile with a range of over 500km in a post-INF treaty world, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said he has ordered a reciprocal response, meaning the Kremlin will likely soon conduct its own highly visible land-based missile test. 

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The Pentagon on Monday confirmed the flight test of a “conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile” held at a base in California the day prior, and released video of the launch. 

In his remarks before Russia's Security Council on Friday, Putin was scathing in his reaction to the US missile test as well as American Defense Secretary Mark Esper's recent signalling of a possible missile deployment to Asia "sooner than later". Putin said any planned Asia-Pacific region US deployment "affects our core interests as it is close to Russia's borders".

"All this leaves no doubts that the real intention of the United States (in exiting the INF pact) was to... untie its hands to deploy previously banned missiles in different regions of the world," Putin said.

Given that the latest Pentagon test took place at a range in California on Aug. 18 - a mere 17 days after the final and formal US pullout of the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, Russia's Defense Ministry said it was clear evidence that Washington had already been in breach of the treaty prior to its official end, given the technology development and extensive preparations that went in to such a test. 

In the days after the INF-banned missile test, Russia said it would seek to avoid a new "costly arms race" but that the US had “obviously taken a course towards escalation of military tensions,” according  to prior statements of Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov.

Also in reaction to the new US test, China and Russia were united this week in condemning the potential unleashing of a new Cold War arms race 2.0, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry issuing a statement saying, “This measure from the US will trigger a new round of an arms race, leading to an escalation of military confrontation.”