Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to pull out of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty if the U.S. does the same.
The United States and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-range (INF) treaty in 1987, during the tail end of Ronald Reagan's presidency. Under the terms of the treaty, neither nation could own any "ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, their launchers and associated support structures and support equipment." The treaty is set to expire in 2021, but Russia has expressed an interest in having it renewed.
What led to this?
In October, the U.S. accused Russia of violating the treaty by owning a Novator 9M729 missile. Russia dismissed these accusations as “aggressive rhetoric." However, NATO later determined that Russia had acted in violation of the treaty.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Russia had 60 days to come back into compliance with the treaty, or the United States would pull out of it.
What did Putin say?
“Apparently, our American partners believe that the situation has changed so drastically that the U.S. should also have such weapons," Putin said Wednesday. “What response is our side to give? A simple one: then we'll do the same."
He also insisted that the U.S. had provided “no evidence" that Russia had violated the treaty, despite NATO's determination.
If the United States pulled out of a pact between the two nations, it's not clear what difference it would make for Putin to abandon a then-nonexistent treaty. Also, the U.S. is threatening to pull out of the deal only after NATO determined that Putin was already in violation, so Russia has already effectively abandoned the treaty. However, if Russia did formally pull out of the agreement, that could mean that Russia would be more blatant in its pursuit of weapons that would violate the treaty.