Putin says Russia will retaliate if U.S. quits nuclear missile treaty: agencies

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday the Kremlin would retaliate if the United States withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, Russian news agencies reported.

Putin discussed possible Russian retaliation with top Russian Defence Ministry officials and added that the Kremlin was ready to discuss the INF treaty with Washington.

The Cold War-era treaty, which rid Europe of land-based nuclear missiles, has come into question against a backdrop of renewed tensions between the West and Russia, most notably over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and role in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has accused Russia of non-compliance with the 31-year-old missile accord and warned it will pull out of the deal as a result. The Kremlin denies violating the pact.

NATO and Russian envoy addressed the dispute during rare talks on Oct. 31, with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urging Moscow to make quick changes to comply in full with the treaty. He said Russia’s development of the land-based, intermediate-range SSC-8 cruise missile posed “a serious risk to strategic stability”.

European leaders worry any collapse of the INF treaty could lead to a new, destabilizing arms race.

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Putin: Russia wants dialogue with U.S. on missile treaty - agencies

PARIS (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday Moscow wanted to restore a full-scale dialogue with the United States about the landmark Cold War-era missile treaty, Russian news agencies reported.

President Donald Trump said last month Washington would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty because Russia was violating the pact, bringing a warning of retaliatory measures from Moscow.

Putin, speaking to Kremlin-backed RT France television, said he could meet Trump on the sidelines of a G-20 summit in Argentina, according to the agencies.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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Putin suggests meeting with Trump in Paris on November 11

The Russian President has suggested he could meet Donald Trump in Paris in early November at an event commemorating the end of the First World War. It was mentioned in talks with US National Security Advisor John Bolton in Moscow.

 

It would be helpful to continue a direct dialog with the US president on the sidelines of international events that are scheduled to take place in the near future, in Paris, for example,” Putin told Bolton during a meeting in the Kremlin as he spoke about his potential talks with Trump.

Putin referred to an event marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the WWI, which is expected to take place in Paris on November 11.

Bolton, in turn, told Putin that the US president “would be glad” to meet him in Paris. He also agreed that Moscow and Washington should continue dialog.

Putin praised his last meeting with Trump, which took place in Helsinki on July 16. It was “useful, partially tough … but eventually constructive”  he said adding that he does not understand why the summit was met with such a negative reaction in the US. “It is startling to see that the US is taking absolutely unprovoked steps against Russia, which we cannot call friendly,” he said.

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Russia Warns NATO Against Provoking Third World War

Members of the NATO-Russia Council have only met three times in the last two years and when they have, NATO focuses strictly on Ukraine.

On Thursday, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to avoid taking steps that may lead to a third World War.

RELATED: Lavrov: US Trying to Establish Mini-State in Syria

Lavrov was unequivocal about the prospects of war, “I believe everyone will be wise enough to prevent that. However, we are certainly very much concerned about the total absence of any professional dialogue between the Russian military and NATO.”

Members of the NATO-Russia Council have only met three times in the last two years and when they have, NATO focuses strictly on Ukraine and “attempts were made to use the NATO-Russia Council as another tool to blame all mortal sins on us, and another way of satisfying the whims of our Ukrainian neighbors who dream of sanctions being endlessly perpetuated and want nothing more than Russia to always be subject to intense criticisms.”

United States' influence over NATO is a factor that Russia considers to be a determinant in the organization’s behavior. “So, look at this situation. I believe it is absurd to remain hostage to US legislator’s whims,” the minister added.

Lavrov's statement comes at a time when there have been military accidents in the region — such as the accidental shooting of a missile by a Spanish fighter jet in Estonia due to NATO activities — in addition to NATO member countries' intention to hold naval drills in the Sea of Azov bordering Russia’s eastern coast, which according to Lavrov, would require the Federation’s permission.

In recent weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that the United States is making the colossal mistake of countries that treat themselves as "empires," by imposing sanctions on countries around the world.

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Putin compares Khashoggi case to Skripal poisoning, asks why Russia condemned despite lack of proof

Russian President Vladimir Putin has contrasted the world’s response to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with its response to the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal, citing lack of proof in both cases.

Speaking at the annual Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, Putin said that despite a lack of evidence proving Russian involvement in the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March, punitive actions were immediately taken against Moscow. In contrast, he said, that did not happen with Riyadh following Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“There’s no proof in regards to Russia, but steps are taken. Here, people say that a murder happened in Istanbul, but no steps are taken. People need to figure out a single approach to these kinds of problems,” Putin said.

Khashoggi, a journalist who wrote columns that were critical of the Saudi kingdom for the Washington Post, disappeared on October 2 when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his planned marriage to a Turkish citizen.

Despite Turkish authorities pinning the blame for Khashoggi’s alleged murder on Riyadh – claiming to have video and audio proof to back it up – the US has been reluctant to point the finger at the Saudis. US President Donald Trump even floated the theory that perhaps “rogue killers” were responsible for the journalist’s disappearance. No such alternative explanations were offered following the Skripals’ poisoning.

Asked whether Moscow would respond to the Khashoggi disappearance, Putin said Russia still did not have enough details to take any action. “Why do we need to take some steps towards the deterioration of our relations if we don’t understand what is happening? But if someone understands and someone believes that the murder occurred, then I hope that some evidence will be provided,” he said.

Trump has been accused by numerous analysts, journalists and politicians of advocating for Riyadh in order to protect the US’ financially beneficial relationship with the Gulf nation. Many have cited Trump’s business ties with Saudis dating back decades.

Trump & Saudi Business: •1991: Sold yacht to Saudi Prince •2001: Sold 45th floor of Trump World Tower to Saudis •Jun 2015: I love the Saudis...many in Trump Tower •Aug 2015: "They buy apartments from me...Spend $40M-$50M" •2017: Saudi lobbyists spent $270K at Trump DC hotel

On the day that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Riyadh to discuss the Khashoggi case, $100 million was transferred to the State Department by Saudi Arabia – part of a long-planned contribution to help stabilize newly liberated regions of Syria. The US, however, denied that the timing of the transfer had anything to do with the diplomatic incident over Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Turkish sources have leaked information to the press, including details from an alleged recording made of Khashoggi’s murder, during which Saudi forensics expert Saleh al-Tubaiqi allegedly dismembered the journalist’s body while his colleagues listened to music.

Saudi Arabia has denied claims of involvement. Trump has cast doubt over the existence of the tape, and said he plans to have a discussion with Pompeo following his fact-finding trip to Riyadh and Istanbul earlier this week.

READ MORE: ‘Sawed while still alive’? Gruesome ‘taped’ details of Khashoggi’s alleged murder cause media stir

When the Skripals were poisoned in the English town of Salisbury in March, British intelligence agencies swiftly accused the Kremlin of being responsible and sanctions were slapped on Moscow. British Prime Minister Theresa May led a chorus of international condemnation, expelling 23 Russian diplomats from the country and convincing the US and a slew of European countries to follow suit.

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After nuclear holocaust, we’ll go to heaven as martyrs; attackers will die as sinners – Putin

If any nation decides to attack Russia with nuclear weapons, it may end life on Earth; but unlike the aggressors, the Russians are sure to go to heaven, President Vladimir Putin has said.

“Any aggressor should know that retribution will be inevitable and he will be destroyed. And since we will be the victims of his aggression, we will be going to heaven as martyrs. They will simply drop dead, won’t even have time to repent,” Putin said during a session of the Valdai Club in Sochi.

He added that Russia’s nuclear forces are not tailored for a pre-emptive strike, and exist as a second-strike capability meant to deter an attack by a foreign nation.

The Russian nuclear doctrine allows for the use of this weapon in a conventional conflict, but only if Russia’s existence is at stake. This presumably gives the Russian military a loophole to use tactical nuclear weapons in the case of a large-scale invasion. The self-imposed restrictions are less harsh than a complete ‘no-first-use’ pledge, which was dropped by Moscow in 1993.

The US’ latest nuclear posture review says that Washington may use nuclear weapons in response to a non-nuclear attack on itself or its allies. It remains vague about the exact circumstances that may trigger such an action. This gave rise to speculation that even a cyberattack may permit a nuclear response. Meanwhile, a call for the creation of small-yield submarine-launched missiles and nuclear-capable sea-launched cruise missiles have only added to concerns that the US is stocking up for some kind of large-scale conflict.

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Putin: Don’t know if it would have been better or worse if Trump had not been elected

The Russian President said there was no way of knowing if Russia had benefited from Donald Trump’s presidency, but promised to work with the current administration no matter what. Politics knows no ‘what ifs,’ he added.

“The United States is a great power, and leads the world in many respects,” said the Russian leader, who had been asked repeatedly about relations between Moscow and Washington during the Russian Energy Week International Forum. “We consider it our natural partner on a whole range of issues, including security, non-proliferation, anti-terrorism and environmental solutions.

“I don’t know if it would have been better or worse if Trump hadn’t won the election – there are no 'what ifs' in politics, and we will work with what we have,” he told the audience during the open session in Moscow.

Read more Putin to Trump: ‘Donald, look into mirror to find culprit for surge in oil prices’

© Mike Segar

Putin said that he hoped to sway Trump towards signing the Paris climate accord, which the US has exited under the current administration. He agreed with his US counterpart that oil prices, which are inching upwards to $100 per barrel, are too high; but said that America’s Iran sanctions were contributing to the volatility.

The Russian president also hoped that the “nonsense” of the Russia election meddling probe would soon be put to bed, and urged Trump to “restore internal balance” to American politics.

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Trump And Putin To Hold First Summit Talks As Twitchy West Looks On

Helsinki: After months of exchanging long-distance compliments, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin sit down on Monday for their first ever summit, a potential political minefield at home for the  US president but a geopolitical win for his Russian counterpart.

Neither side expects major breakthroughs from the talks in the Finnish capital beyond warm words, an agreement to begin repairing battered US-Russia relations, and maybe a deal to start talks on issues such as nuclear arms control and Syria.

The two men, who have praised each other's leadership qualities from afar, could also agree to start restocking their respective embassies and returning confiscated diplomatic property after a wave of expulsions and retaliatory action prompted by the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

Ahead of the summit, both sides talked down the event, however, with Trump telling CBS he was going in with "low expectations" and John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, saying on ABC's "This Week" that the United States was not looking for "deliverables" and that the meeting would be "unstructured."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russia's RT TV station that he also had low expectations. He would regard the summit as a success if there was an agreement to merely reopen severed lines of communications across the board, he said.

For Putin, the fact that the summit is even happening despite Russia's semi-pariah status among some Americans and  US allies is a geopolitical win because, in Russian eyes, it shows that Washington recognises Moscow as a great power whose interests must be taken into account.

For Russia, it is also a powerful sign that Western efforts to isolate Moscow have failed.

But for Trump, whose White House victory was actively supported by 12 Russian military intelligence agents, according to a recent  US indictment, and whose entourage is still being investigated for possible collusion with Moscow, the meeting is freighted with domestic political risk.

"We can say confidently that Putin's political risks are lower than those of President Trump," said Andrey Kortunov, head of RIAC, a Moscow think-tank close to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

"Putin has less to lose and more to gain because he does not have a domestic opposition, a potentially hostile legislature, and is not begin investigated like Trump. But if you look at the  US media they mostly focus on potential risks. Nobody there really believes that any good can come out of this summit."

A probe over allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016  US presidential election has clouded Trump's presidency. Trump has denied any collusion with the Russians by his campaign and Russia denies it meddled.

The Helsinki summit is the capstone to a nearly week-long trip for Trump during which he has sown doubts about his commitment to the NATO military alliance, Washington's so-called special relationship with Britain, and  US relations with the European Union that he called "a foe" in trade terms.

Against that backdrop and swirling uncertainty about what Trump might do or say next, his summit with Putin, which will include a one-on-one session with the Russian leader with only interpreters present, has both  US allies and  US politicians worried lest he make hasty and sweeping concessions.

 US Fears

Some politicians in the West believe the summit is happening at one of the most crucial junctures for the West since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union. Certain NATO allies fear Putin might seek a grand deal that would undermine the  US-led transatlantic alliance.

Trump has said that he will raise the alleged Russian election meddling with Putin but does not expect to get anywhere, has spoken vaguely about the possibility of halting NATO war games in the Baltic region, and has said repeatedly that it would be good if he could get along with Russia.

When asked last month if he would recognise Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea, he replied: "We're going to have to see."

On Friday, 12 Russians were indicted on charges of interfering in the  US 2016 election, a development that prompted some Democratic leaders to call on Trump to cancel the Putin meeting, a demand he quickly dismissed.

On the summit's eve, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, a political opponent of Trump, said he had told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the Helsinki meeting was a mistake.

"First, I don't believe the meeting should take place but if it is going to happen, President Trump must press Putin hard on the issue of election interference. He can't simply raise it, accept Putin's denial and then let him off the hook," Schumer said in a statement.

"Second, the President must demand that the 12 Russians named in the indictment be sent to the  US to stand trial. And third, President Trump should not agree to weaken, lift, or curtail any of the sanctions on Russia."

Any Trump request for Russia to extradite hacking suspects is likely to fall on deaf ears, however, as the Kremlin, citing the Russian constitution, has a policy of not handing over suspects wanted by other countries.

Many Western politicians remain angry over Russia's annexation of Crimea, its backing of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, and its support for Syria's Bashar al-Assad.

Other accusations, denied by Moscow, include that it meddled in European politics, supplied the weapon that shot down a passenger plane in 2014 over Ukraine, and was behind the poisoning of the former Russian spy in Britain.

Moscow would love to have  US sanctions - initially imposed over the Crimea annexation - eased and eventually lifted. But most in Russia do not expect the summit to produce such an outcome.

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