Russia's ruling tandem has warned the West of a new arms race if Russia and NATO fail to agree on missile defence in Europe.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told CNN television on Wednesday that Russia would deploy new nuclear weapons and “strike forces” if Russian proposals for a joint missile defence with NATO were rejected and the U.S. fails to ratify the New START treaty.
In the absence of agreement on missile defence and nuclear arms reductions Russia would “put in place new strike forces ... against the new threats which will have been created along our borders,” Mr. Putin said in an interview with CNN's Larry King.
A day earlier President Dmitry Medvedev issued a similar warning.
“We face the following alternative over the next ten years: either we reach agreement on missile defence and create a full-fledged joint mechanism of cooperation, or if we fail to do so, a new round of an arms race will start, and we will have to adopt decisions on the deployment of new offensive weapons,” Mr. Medvedev said in his annual state-of-the-nation address to Parliament on Tuesday.
The stark warnings came days after Mr. Medvedev returned from what was billed as a highly successful trip to Lisbon to attend a NATO summit where Russia and the Atlantic Alliance agreed to launch a reset in their relations.
Last time Mr. Medvedev threatened to deploy new nuclear-capable missiles to counter the proposed U.S. missile shield in Europe was two years ago, when George W. Bush was still U.S. President. President Barack Obama has since cancelled Mr. Bush's plan and in Lisbon NATO invited Russia to cooperate in building a pan-European missile defence which should become a kingpin of “strategic partnership” between the former Cold War foes.
Mr. Medvedev said Russia and NATO “have already launched a joint study” of his proposal to link the Russian and NATO missile defence systems. Moscow has repeatedly stated that it would only agree to join a European missile defence on the basis of “fully equal partnership” to ensure that the system does not threaten Russia's nuclear deterrent.
However, U.S. ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder is on record as saying that the U.S. would build missile defences in Europe in accordance with its plans irrespective of whether Russia joins in.