Putin says missile tests were response to NATO's actions
Russia's president said Thursday his country's recent tests of new ballistic missiles and possible withdrawal from an arms control treaty are a direct response to harsh, unreasonable actions by NATO countries.
Speaking at a news conference after meeting with the Greek president in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin said Russia did not initiate the new wave of an international arms race, and condemned the planned deployment of a U.S. missile shield in Europe, and the development of new military bases on the continent.
"There is no need to fear Russia's actions, they are not aggressive... They are aimed at maintaining balance in the world order, and are extremely important for maintaining peace and security globally," Putin said.
Russia conducted successful tests this week of a new ballistic missile with MIRV and a cruise missile allegedly capable of penetrating any operational and future missile defenses.
"We conducted a test of a new strategic ballistic missile with multiple warheads, and of a new cruise missile, and will continue to improve our resources," Putin said.
The president suggested recently that Moscow might suspend its obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty if talks with NATO countries on its implementation show no visible progress.
No NATO members have yet ratified the re-drafted CFE pact, demanding that Russia first withdraw from Soviet-era bases in Georgia and Moldova under previous agreements.
Russia, concerned over Europe's refusal to ratify the re-drafted version of the accord, and acceptance by certain EU states of U.S. missile shield plans on the continent, proposed on Monday holding an emergency CFE conference in Vienna on June 12-15.
"We are fully observing the provisions of the [CFE] treaty and have pulled out all heavy weaponry from the European part of Russia. We have reduced our armed forces by 300,000 personnel in the past few years, but what about our partners?" Putin said.
"They are inundating eastern Europe with new weapons - a new base in Bulgaria, another base in Romania, a [missile interceptor] site in Poland, a radar in the Czech Republic," the president said. "What are we supposed to do? We cannot just observe all this and continue to keep our obligations under the treaty."
Putin also stressed that the United States unilaterally withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, paving the way to the deployment of its missile shield in Europe.
"Our American partners have left the ABM Treaty," he said. "We warned them then that we would take measures in response, to maintain the global strategic balance."
The U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland as part of its European missile shield allegedly against "rogue" states, such as Iran and North Korea.
Since Washington announced the plans earlier this year, Russia has vehemently opposed the deployment, citing its own national security concerns. Some of Russia's top generals hinted that the bases, if opened, could be targeted by Russian missiles.
[Source: Turkish Weekly, Moscow, 28Aug08]
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