The US has long accused Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and last week US President Donald Trump announced he would exit it. Russia followed suit. Ground-launched missiles were banned under the INF, but not sea or air-launched ones, which Russia already possesses and that can be used to create the new systems. Russia will race to develop two new land-based missile launch systems before 2021. The nuclear power says it is the US that has broken the pact, and says Washington is using false allegations as a pretext to withdraw from a pact it never wanted to be part of.
Now Moscow is clearly ahead in the race to field this previously banned category of weapons. President Putin has also pointed to a potential hypersonic weapon on which the US believes Russia has been working for some time. However both Russia and the US are wary of China’s growing intermediate-range arsenal. It has never been restricted by any arms control agreement.