Russia opposes the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) and it will respond "in an appropriate manner" if Washington goes ahead with the pullout, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.
His comments came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at a NATO meeting on Tuesday that Washington will suspend its obligations under the 1987 INF Treaty in 60 days, citing Russian "cheating", TASS news agency reported.
The NATO Foreign Ministers had also urged Russia to urgently return to full and verifiable compliance with the INF Treaty, pointing out that it is now up to Moscow to preserve the deal.
The US shared intelligence evidence with its NATO allies that it said showed that Russia's new SSC-8 ground-fired cruise missile could give Moscow an ability to launch a nuclear strike in Europe with little or no notice.
The INF Treaty was signed between the Soviet Union and the US on December 8, 1987, in Washington and took effect on June 1, 1988. The treaty eliminated operational and non-operational medium-range (1,000-5,500 km) and shorter-range (500-1,000 km) ground-launched missiles.
Putin said that the US Congress, prior to Washington's announcement about withdrawing from the INF Treaty, allocated funds for the research and development to build relevant missiles.
"Hence, the decision was made long ago but quietly, they thought that we wouldn't notice that but this is already stipulated in the Pentagon budget, namely the development of these missiles, but they only publicly announced that they were withdrawing from (the INF Treaty) afterwards.
"Then (they) started looking for someone to blame and the simplest and traditional thing for the West to say is that 'Russia is guilty'. But that's not true, we oppose breaking this treaty, but if it happens, we will respond accordingly," said the Russian leader.
(With inputs from agencies.)