Russia's president warned of retaliatory steps against Washington's missile shield plans in Europe, and ridiculed a Pentagon missile defense cooperation offer to Russia.
Speaking Friday ahead of a summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations, Vladimir Putin said the United States' mooted missile bases in Europe would be part of the US nuclear arsenal and that Russia could be forced to aim its nuclear weapons at Europe. „If part of the US' strategic nuclear arsenal is located in Europe and our military experts find that it poses a threat to Russia, we will have to take appropriate retaliatory steps,” he said „We will have new targets in Europe.”
Putin also said Washington's cooperation proposals to Russia in the sphere of missile defense were limited to one unreasonable offer that Russia provides its missiles for target practice. „Our American partners want us to provide them with our missiles as targets, so that they can conduct exercises using our missiles. This is just brilliant. What a great idea they've thought up.” Russia has responded angrily to US plans, announced in January, to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic to counter possible missiles attacks from Iran and North Korea.
At the news conference, Putin dismissed Washington's justification for the planned missile shield as ungrounded, saying the two countries did not have long-range missiles capable of reaching Europe, and that the system, which was „designed as protection against something that does not exist,” „changes the configuration of international security.” The Russian president is set to meet with US President George W. Bush, along with the other six G8 leaders at Germany's Baltic resort of Heiligendamm, at the G8 summit from June 6 to 8. Putin condemned Washington's lack of multilateral consultation on the issue. „We have heard talk of European solidarity...
Two countries, the Czech Republic and Poland, made a decision to deploy the missile defense elements on their territories. They say it is needed for Europe's protection. Has anyone asked Europe? Has there been any pan-European decision?” Putin said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier urged a broad discussion on the issue, involving Russia. Russia tested a new ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads and a new cruise missile last week, saying the tests were part of Moscow's response to the US anti-missile plans.
Putin said Russia would not deploy an anti-missile base in Cuba, its close ally in Soviet times, in response to the US missile plans, and did not rule out that Washington might drop the plans. „We do not want confrontation, we want cooperation; we do not need bases near any country,” he said. (en.rian.ru)