Russian strongman Vladimir Putin boasted Thursday that his country could match the United States' missile capabilities and is ready to respond should Washington quit the historic Cold War nuclear accord. During a speech at the Valdal forum in the Russian city of Sochi, Putin warned that his government would provide an immediate response if the US decided to walk away from the landmark intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Violation of the Cold War treaty

The 1987 Cold War agreement was agreed upon and signed by then US President Ronald Reagan and his Soviet opposite Mikhail Gorbachev.

Under the auspices of the treaty, the US and the Soviet Union agreed to destroy ground missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometers. However, the American government claimed that Russia violated the accord and is manufacturing such weapons, an accusation that the Kremlin vigorously denied.

According to The Daily Mail and The Sun, Putin described the Cold War accord as a "unilateral disarmament" because, in his view, it did not ban missiles mounted on navy ships that the US had and the Soviet Union didn't. However, according to Putin, Russia had since manufactured such weapons for the country's air force and navy. During his speech to international policy scholars, Putin also stated that Moscow would develop new nuclear and non-nuclear weapons systems should other world powers do the same.

The strongman added that the United States failed to seize the chance to create a "safer and more stable world" after the Cold War ended. Putin then accused the US of dragging its feet in obeying an international treaty that required it to destroy its chemical weapons. Last month, Moscow finished dismantling its chemical weapons arsenal.

Heightened tensions between Russia and the US

During his remarks, Putin condemned North Korea for its nuclear weapons tests. He, however, advised that dialogue is the best way to solve the standoff between Pyongyang and the US government. The Russian leader stated that it is crucial to resolve the issue through dialogue and "not drive North Korea into a corner" by threatening it with the use of military force.

Putin's verbal attack came at a time of heightened tensions between the two nuclear behemoths. Recently, the Kremlin ordered Washington to reduce its embassy staff by at least 755 people. In retaliation, American authorities stopped issuing visas at its consulates in Russia.

In 2014, relations between the two superpowers took a hit after Putin's government annexed Crimea. Russia is also funding separatist rebels in Ukraine, where over 10,000 people have died in the ongoing civil strife.

Additionally, American intelligence agencies and top politicians accused Russia of meddling in last year's US presidential election. Despite the Kremlin's vehement denial, American lawmakers approved tighter sanctions against Putin's government.