Putin: Russia will target US if missiles are placed in Europe

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow will target the U.S. if it deploys nuclear missiles in Europe.

Reuters reported that Putin said Russia would not make the first move or initiate the confrontation, but warned the U.S. against putting short- or intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

"It's their right to think how they want. But can they count? I'm sure they can. Let them count the speed and the range of the weapons systems we are developing," Putin told a gathering of Russia's political elite, according to the news service.

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"Russia will be forced to create and deploy types of weapons which can be used not only in respect of those territories from which the direct threat to us originates, but also in respect of those territories where the centers of decisionmaking are located," he added.

Putin reportedly argued that Moscow would be forced to respond if the U.S. placed missiles in Europe, as it would reduce the time for the weapons to reach Russia.

Putin's remarks were his sharpest yet in the wake of the U.S. decision to stop complying with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The agreement, signed by then-President Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, bans nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles.

The U.S. said ahead of its withdrawal announcement that Russia had not complied with the treaty for years.

Putin's comments threaten to further stoke tensions between Moscow and the U.S. and its allies.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE has drawn criticism for his warm rhetoric toward Putin and his stated desire for closer ties with Russia. His defenders have pointed to the sanctions the administration has placed on Moscow.