“We will not close our eyes to US cruise missile deployment [in Europe] and its direct threat to our security. We will have to take efficient retaliatory measures. But as a responsible and sensible country, Russia is not interested in a new arms race”, he said.
However, the United States seems to have a "dismantling" policy regarding global arms control, the president added.
“Despite the US saying it wants to exit the INF, we are open to dialogue on how we can keep it in place. We sent a number of concrete proposals on the matter to the US in December. We are open to serious talks on the entire strategic agenda of our two countries,” Putin told two Serbian newspapers.
He said the United States was trying to “dismantle the system of international agreements on arms control … or adhere to those clauses that serve their interests." “The announcement that they would quit the INF was another link in this chain of events,” Putin added.
“This situation is the result of continuing unilateral actions by the United States and several other Western countries, including their use of force. This has created a climate of confrontation and mistrust,” he said.
“We are calling on Western colleagues to refrain from blackmail, threats and provocations and respect international laws and engage in dialogue between our countries based on the UN Charter. This is the only way to preserve peace,” he concluded.
Putin also emphasized that NATO expansion in Europe is a destructive strategy, adding that this policy is "a Cold War relic". According to the president, NATO is currently trying to strengthen its position in the Balkans.
“We have repeatedly said that we see the NATO expansion as a relic of the Cold War, an ill-informed and destructive military and political strategy”, Putin said.
“The policy of the US and some other Western countries in the Balkans, who seek to assert their dominance in the region, has been a serious destabilizing factor”, he said. “This only creates dividing lines on the European continent and blatantly violates the principle of indivisibility of security. This will eventually increase mistrust and tension in Europe, rather than improve stability”, Putin warned.
“We respect the decision of the Serbian government to join the EU, and unlike Western partners we are not forcing Belgrade to choose between Russia and the EU,” he said.
“We have been supplying [Serbia] with military equipment and weapons and assisting in their maintenance … We will continue developing this military-technical cooperation,” the Russian president promised.
However, the Russian president has criticized the European Union for its inaction after Kosovo’s parliamentary vote to transform security forces into a regular army.
“We were surprised by EU’s passivity after the Kosovo ‘parliament’ decided to transform the Kosovo Security Force into a fully-fledged army. Obviously, Serbs living in this province [Kosovo] see this decision as a direct threat to their security, which also poses a serious risk of escalation in the region,” Putin told two Serbian newspapers.
He warned Brussels that it was “not in the EU’s best interest to close its eyes to such unilateral actions that are a blatant violation of international laws, especially if Brussels plans to continue mediating the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has told the Norwegian News Agency that the alliance is ready to use force if Russia misses the deadline of February 2 to remedy its alleged violations of the INF Treaty.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday that "attempts to conduct dialogue in the form of ultimatums, recalling Russia's 'last chance,' as Stoltenberg said, run counter to statements that saving the treaty is the alliance's priority. On the contrary, such statements hinder addressing the situation via professional dialogue".
US President Donald Trump said in October he wanted to pull the country from the deal but was persuaded by European allies in December to give Russia a 60-day grace period until mid-February to comply.
Russia has rejected the accusations. It has complained about US weapons in Europe that can fire cruise missiles at ranges that breach the terms of the INF. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused the United States of refusing to address the mutual concerns together.