Russia's president on Wednesday said he would deploy missiles capable of striking the United States should Washington decide to station short to medium-range missiles in European nations within striking distance of Russia once it has pulled out of a Cold War-era nuclear arms treaty.
Giving his annual address to the Federal Assembly, Vladimir Putin said he was not looking for a confrontation with the US and nor would his country be the first to deploy missiles once Donald Trump's administration completes the process of withdrawing from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty but warned of tit-for-tat measures in the case of an escalation.
"Russia would be obliged to manufacture and station weaponry that could not only be used against territories where the direct threat comes from but also decision-making centers," Putin told lawmakers. "We know how to do it and we would put these plans into effect as soon as such a threat became a reality," he added.
He said that Washington would have the capability to deploy missile systems in Eastern European nations within 10-12 minutes' striking distance from Moscow.
The nationalist president insisted Russia would not be the country to take the first steps in deploying such missiles.
Russia announced it would withdraw from the INF at the beginning of the month following the US' unilateral decision to break away from the pact, a process that is set to be completed in six months' time although either country can backtrack during that period.
Washington and Russia both accused each other of breaching the agreement.
The INF treaty was signed in 1987 between the then-leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the president of the US at the time, Ronald Reagan
Putin previously said that Russia's response to the US withdrawal would be "symmetrical" but that nevertheless, Russia would still refrain from deploying weapons with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers in European Russia and other global regions, so long Washington also agreed not to.
The Russian president questioned Washington's justifications for pulling out of the treaty.
"Our US partners should have been honest about it instead of using thought-up accusations to justify their unilateral exit from the treaty," he said. "They should have done it the same way they quit the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2004 when they simply pulled out, openly and honestly."
The government of President Donald Trump called "propaganda" the threat of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that Russia will direct its nuclear weapons against the US territory, as during the Cold War, if Washington deploys medium and short range missiles in Europe.
"President Putin's statements are a continuation of Russia's propaganda effort to avoid assuming its responsibility for the Russian violations of the INF treaty", a State Department spokeswoman told to Efe, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The White House suspended this month its participation in the INF treaty with Russia, aimed at eliminating all short and medium range nuclear and conventional missiles of the two powers, and in August it will formally withdraw from it unless the Russian Government corrects the violations that Washington accuses it of committing.
In his annual speech on the state of the nation, Putin warned United States today not to deploy missiles on the European continent, because otherwise he will face measures "asymmetric as well as symmetrical".
"Russia will be forced to manufacture and deploy types of weapons that can be used not only against the territories from which the direct threat comes, but also against the territories where the decision-making centers are located", warned the Russian president.