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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Warns of Arms Race

President Vladimir Putin reiterated Saturday that U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty will nullify other arms agreements and disrupt global stability.

He said U.S. President George W. Bush's plan to install an anti-ballistic nuclear defense system in the United States could possibly make Russia reciprocate by upgrading its nuclear arsenal.

Putin, speaking to reporters after meeting with Austrian President Thomas Klestil, said stability in the world has been preserved "thanks to the balance of powers and interests" in the nuclear sphere.

"We are certain that the elimination of the 1972 ABM treaty and the creation of the Nuclear Missile Defense system by the United States disrupts this balance," Putin said.

Putin said more than 30 arms agreements are based on the ABM treaty, including START I and START II, which the United States has yet to ratify.

"If the ABM treaty ceases to exist, START I and START II will cease to exist as well," Putin said. "This means that all countries, including Russia, will have the right to install sub-projectile warheads carrying nuclear weapons on their missiles."

For Russia, installation of multiple nuclear warheads on existing missiles "is the cheapest response," said Putin.

But, he said, that response should not be seen by the United States as a threat.

"I want to say that if such a response does take place, it will not be aimed against the creators of the NMD system," Putin said, adding that "it should not worry anyone."

Upgrading the Russian nuclear arsenal is just one of several options, Putin said. "There are many other response options and that is just one of them," he said.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell brushed aside Putin's warning.

"I am not in charge of Russia, but I don't think that's what they would do," Powell said.

He said he was confident that Putin would not try to enhance Russia's strategic force once he takes into account the cost. Powell added that Putin also will come to realize that a U.S. missile defense is not a threat to Russia.

Critics of the missile defense system argue that its deployment by the United States would touch off an arms race, with Russia and China taking steps to build up their arsenals to overwhelm the U.S. defense shield.

Earlier Saturday, a senior aide to Putin said in Moscow that the Bush administration was being vague about plans to reduce strategic offensive weapons.

Bush has said previously he was prepared to undertake sharp reductions in nuclear weapons while making plans for the anti-missile defense system.

Igor Sergeyev, a former defense minister and senior adviser to Putin, told Interfax that the U.S. position on missile reduction was vague.

"In what format will they be reduced?" he asked. "In the course of negotiations, unilaterally, in parallel? What will be their limit for the number of nuclear warheads, 1,500, 2,000 or 3,000?"

Sergeyev also said Moscow was against "destroying the [ABM] treaty, as this will disrupt the entire system of strategic stability and control over missiles and missile technology.

Also Saturday, the commander of Russia's land-based rocket forces, Nikolai Solovtsov, warned that Moscow would find a way to counter any U.S. anti-missile system.

"If the United States proceeds with work in this direction, Russia and its rocket forces are capable of responding with a series of measures able to neutralize such a scheme," he told Interfax.

He said the military would continue developing its Topol-M missile, which it promotes as a sophisticated weapon capable of breaking through defenses.

(AP, Reuters)