Vladimir Putin Tells Trump Administration Russia Is Ready for Another Cuban Missile Crisis

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signaled that he would be ready for a confrontation similar to the Cuban missile crisis that took place in the 1960s, and he claimed Russia has the upper hand over the U.S. when it comes to possible nuclear war.

The Cuban missile crisis was a tense standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union at a time when the potential for nuclear war between the two countries was very real. The conflict saw both countries pointing ballistic missiles at each other, with U.S. missile deployments in Turkey and Italy and a responding Russian deployment in Cuba.

For some observers, Putin's comments on Wednesday appeared to signal that another arms race is imminent.

"[The current tensions] are not a reason to ratchet up confrontation to the levels of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s. In any case, that's not what we want," Putin said, according to Reuters. But, he added, "if someone wants that, well, OK. They are welcome. I have set out today what that would mean."

In additional comments Wednesday to the media and during an earlier state of the nation address, Putin described what a Russian attack against U.S. targets would look like and warned that Moscow would match any move by the Washington to deploy missiles closer to Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his state of the nation address in Moscow on February 20. Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The U.S. recently announced that it would abandon the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which the U.S. signed with the Soviet Union in 1987. The treaty was a landmark that signaled that the Cold War was ending and the threat of nuclear war had subsided. Washington now says it will abandon the treaty completely in a matter of months unless Russia stops violating its provisions, which ban ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of about 300 to 3,500 miles.

Now, however, experts say tensions between Russia and the U.S. have once again reached Cold War levels, as the U.S. accuses Moscow of election interference and influence operations. The end of the INF treaty has also spooked U.S. allies in Europe, who fear that another arms race could take place on their territory.

During his annual state of the nation address held Wednesday, Putin promised that Moscow would attack U.S. targets if Washington deploys intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Europe. Officials from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) later responded saying that the threats against allies were "unacceptable."

Hours later, in comments to the Russian media, Putin said Russia could deploy high-speed supersonic weapons on ships and send them into neutral waters.

"We can put them, given the speed and range [of our missiles]...in neutral waters. Plus, they are not stationary; they move, and they will have to find them," Putin said, according to the Kremlin.

Officials from both the U.S. and Russia have said they do not plan to pursue an arms race first.

"Russia does not intend to deploy such missiles in Europe first. If they really are built and delivered to the European continent, and the United States has plans for this, at least we have not heard otherwise, it will dramatically exacerbate the international security situation, and create a serious threat to Russia, because some of these missiles can reach Moscow in just 10 to 12 minutes," Putin said during his state of the nation address. "This is a very serious threat to us. In this case, we will be forced—I would like to emphasize this—we will be forced to respond with mirror or asymmetric actions."

Senior Trump administration officials have noted that it would take months to determine what types of weapons to deploy in Europe if Washington eventually decides to deploy more missiles.

This story has been updated with an additional reported quote from President Vladimir Putin.