Putin threatens to target USA 'decision-making centers' if missiles deployed

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Alleging Russian violations, Washington said this month it was suspending its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and starting the process of quitting it, untying its hands to develop new missiles.

The Russian land-based missiles that now target the United States are based on Russian territory and therefore the flight time to major USA population centers would be longer than for US missiles deployed in Europe.

The treaty, concluded by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, banned the development and deployment of land-based missiles with a range of 500-5,500km and was widely credited with banishing nuclear missiles from Europe.

Mr Putin said Moscow was open to arms control talks and doesn't want confrontation, but warned that U.S. leaders should "count the range and speed of our perspective weapons systems" before deploying new arms against Russian Federation.

The Kremlin leader warned the U.S. that they should weigh up the risks before they act as he also threatened to target European countries.

He added that the tests of the new Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile and the Poseidon nuclear-powered underwater drone have been progressing successfully.

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While issuing a tough warning to the U.S., Putin also claimed that Russian Federation still wants friendly relations with Washington and remains open for arms control talks. Both weapons allow the Russians to hit targets that were once out of range.

His promises seemed aimed at addressing growing discontent over the dismal living conditions, especially outside Moscow, that many Russians still face almost 20 years after Putin came to power.

The source said foreign policy will be of secondary importance in the speech and instead Putin will focus on issues such as Russia's space program and finding solutions to the country's problems with waste removal.

Speaking in the state-of-the-nation address Wednesday, Putin said the new Zircon missile will fly at nine times of the speed of sound and have a range of 1,000 kilometres (620 miles).

He said the Zircon programme will not be too costly as the missile has been created to equip Russia's existing surface ships and submarines.

Putin said the first batch of Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles will be deployed this year. He said Moscow hopes to mend ties with the United States, adding that "we don't want confrontation, particularly with such a global power as the U.S".

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He then seemed to taunt the US, calling on leaders to calculate the range and speed of Russia's most advanced weapons.

The threat came amid growing fears of a new arms race.

Patriotic fervour that bolstered Putin after the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in 2014 has dissipated.

Putin's warnings came at the end of a speech that focused mainly on a pledge to deliver improvements in living standards in 2019, after years of stagnant or falling real incomes that have sharply dented his popularity.

Improving the health care system will be another top priority for the government, the Russian president said.

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