In Sunday’s test, a modified ground-launched version of a U.S. Navy Tomahawk cruise missile accurately struck its target more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) away. The test came after Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
The U.S. said it withdrew from the treaty because of Russian violations, a claim that Moscow has denied. Speaking Friday, Putin charged that the U.S. waged a “propaganda campaign” alleging Russian breaches of the pact to “untie its hands to deploy the previously banned missiles in different parts of the world.”
He ordered the Defense Ministry and other agencies to “take comprehensive measures to prepare a symmetrical answer.”
The Russian leader noted that Sunday’s test was performed from a launcher similar to those deployed at a U.S. missile defense site in Romania. He argued that the Romanian facility and a prospective similar site in Poland could also be loaded with missiles intended to hit ground targets instead of interceptors.
Putin has previously pledged that Russia wouldn’t deploy the missiles previously banned by the INF Treaty to any area before the U.S. does that first, but he noted Friday that the use of the universal launcher means that a covert deployment is possible.
“How would we know what they will deploy in Romania and Poland — missile defense systems or strike missile systems with a significant range?” Putin said.
Russia long has charged that the U.S. launchers loaded with missile defense interceptors could be used for firing surface-to-surface missiles. Putin said that Sunday’s test has proven that the U.S. denials have been false.
“It’s indisputable now,” the Russian leader said.
He added the missile test that came just 16 days after the INF treaty’s termination has shown that the U.S. long had started work on the new systems banned by the treaty.
While Putin hasn’t spelled out possible retaliatory measures, some Moscow-based military experts theorized that Russia could adapt the sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles for use from ground launchers.