President Vladimir Putin Sunday declared that a new arms race and cold war with the west had begun and announced that Russia would retaliate against US missile defense plans in Europe by pointing its missiles at European cities.
In a hawkish speech that sets the stage for a frosty G8 summit this week, Putin launched an extraordinary broadside at the west over missile defense, Kosovo and democratic standards. Putin will meet George Bush, Tony Blair and other world leaders on Wednesday in the German resort of Heiligendamm for their annual meeting. In an interview released Sunday night he made his most strident attack yet on western power. He also indicated that he would not shy away from fights with the German chancellor Angela Merkel on human rights and harshly accused Britain of „politicizing” the murder of the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko.
On missile defense, Putin said that if the Bush administration installed elements of a missile shield in eastern Europe, Russia would retaliate by training nuclear missiles on European targets. Russia has not specifically aimed its missiles at Europe since the end of the cold war but, asked if it might do so again if the US missile shield went ahead, Putin said: „Of course we are returning to those times. It is clear that if a part of the US nuclear capability turns up in Europe, and, in the opinion of our military specialists will threaten us, then we are forced to take corresponding steps in response.”
„What will those steps be? Naturally, we will have to have new targets in Europe.”
„We want to be heard, we want our position to be understood,” he said. „But if that does not happen, we lift from ourselves any responsibility for the steps we take in response, because we are not the ones who are initating the arms race in Europe.”
Putin's comments, in an interview with selected media from G8 countries at his dacha outside Moscow, appear calculated to inflict maximum panic among western leaders ahead of the G8 summit. The comments are the most savage assault on the west since the cold war and follow Putin's blistering attack on the Bush administration in February in Munich, Germany, unproductive talks with the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russia's alleged cyber-attack on neighboring Estonia and last week's announcement that Russia had successfully test-fired a new and deadly intercontinental missile equipped with multiple warheads.
In a further jibe at the US, Putin said no one country should be allowed to dictate its views to others. „Certain participants in the international arena assume that their opinion is the ultimate truth. That, naturally, does not help create an atmosphere of trust.” Putin also underlined the gulf between Russia and the west over the future of Kosovo and its possible split from Serbia.” We hear only one answer. That we need to hurry. But hurry where? What is happening that requires us to be in such a rush?” In comments likely to lead to icy exchanges when Putin meets Blair at the G8, the Russian leader accused Britain of „politicizing” the murder of the former Russian security service agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died in a London hospital after being poisoned with polonium 210.
Sunday night Putin said the affair was being whipped up by Russian emigres given refuge in London after fleeing prosecution in Russia. The Bush administration insists that planned missile interceptors and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic are no threat to Moscow. The Pentagon claims the system is designed to shoot down missiles from Iran and North Korea. Putin has repeatedly said he does not believe the US Neither Iran nor North Korea has missiles capable of striking the US, he said, accusing the US administration of upsetting the strategic balance of forces in Europe.
„We are being told the anti-missile defense system is targeted against something that does not exist. Doesn't it seem funny to you?” said Putin. „The strategic balance in the world is being upset and in order to restore this balance without creating an anti-missile defense on our territory, we will be creating a system of countering that anti-missile system.” (freeinternetpress.com)