Leaders rescheduled meeting to center on Iran and Syria as part of military coordination on Syria; Pompeo responds to threats from Putin following INF Treaty collapse.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday.

The leaders were set to meet last week, however, Netanyahu postponed the meeting due to political developments ahead of Israel’s upcoming April elections. Putin and Netanyahu are meeting as part of Israel and Russia’s ongoing military coordination on Syria. Their talks will center on regional developments, mainly in Iran and Syria.

During his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu confirmed his itinerary for the meeting, stating, “On Wednesday I will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. We had a preliminary phone conversation ahead of this meeting and, of course, the Iranian issue topped our discussions; this we agreed on. I will discuss regional developments and the Iranian aggression with him.” He added, “We will also discuss strengthening the coordination mechanism between the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] and the Russian military in order to preserve stability and prevent unnecessary friction in the region. These talks are important for security and the IDF, and are very important for the State of Israel.”

The meeting falls following threats from Putin to deploy missiles to the United States’ coasts if the US were to deploy additional missiles to Europe. His remarks follow the United States’ announcement at the beginning of this month that it will exit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, given Russia’s violations since 2014.

Under the 1987 treaty signed by US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, both states agreed to abandon their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as launchers, for both short and medium-range rockets with ranges between 300-3,200 miles.

Russia announced its intention to also leave the treaty after the United States, President Putin threatening and condemning the US during an address to the Russian Federal Assembly on Wednesday. He claimed, “Our American partners should have just said so honestly rather than make farfetched accusations against Russia to justify their unilateral withdrawal from the Treaty.” Referring to the United States withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, as well as its use of “medium-range target missiles and deploying launchers in Romania and Poland that are fit for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles,” he claimed, “the US has openly violated these clauses of the [INF] Treaty.”

He threatened “mirror or asymmetric actions,” against the United States, describing in detail that “Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapons that can be used not only in the areas we are directly threatened from, but also in areas that contain decision-making centers for the missile systems threatening us.” He additionally alleged, “Our American colleagues have already tried to gain absolute military superiority with their global missile defense project. They need to stop deluding themselves. Our response will always be efficient and effective.”

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded to Putin’s threats, dismissing them as efforts to divide the United States and Europe. He stated on Sunday, “His bluster is aimed at trying to convince the world to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe when everyone is fully on board,” in reference to European support for the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, adding, “The Europeans were fully supportive of our decision, and we’ll move forward together in ensuring the security of the United States’ people.”

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