Russian media have reported that S-400 anti-aircraft missiles and Iskander ballistic missiles will be moved to Kaliningrad, which borders on Poland and Lithuania, because President Vladimir Putin is “concerned” about NATO expansion and the deployment of U.S. missile shield technology in Europe.
“Why are we reacting to NATO expansion so emotionally? We are concerned by NATO’s decision-making,” Putin said in a TV interview broadcast on Monday, according to Sky News.
“We have, therefore, to take countermeasures, which means to target with our missile systems the facilities that in our opinion start posing a threat to us,” Putin continued.
The Russian president portrayed Eastern European nations as puppets or dupes of the United States: “When a country joins NATO, it becomes next to impossible for it to resist pressure from a major NATO leader such as the United States and hence it may deploy anything … a missile defense system, new bases or, if need be, missile strike systems.”
Viktor Ozerov, head of the defense committee in the upper house of Russia’s Parliament, more specifically stated that U.S. missile shield deployment in Europe prompted Russia’s move.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg insisted that “everything NATO does is defensive, proportionate and fully in line with [their] international commitments.”
“Before Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, NATO had no plans to send troops to the Eastern part of our alliance,” Stoltenberg said. “NATO’s aim is to prevent a conflict, not to provoke a conflict. Moreover, we firmly believe and we are firmly committed to a two-track approach to Russia; strong defence, coupled with meaningful dialogue.”
The Telegraph reports that even Sweden was sufficiently alarmed by Russia’s recent actions to dust off its own Cold War weapons, announcing that it will put Kustrobotbatteri’s 90 launchers on the island of Gotland.
President Obama and President Putin had a four-minute conversation at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Peru, during which White House officials said Obama urged the Russians to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine. The situation in Syria was also discussed.
Numerous onlookers described the encounter as “frosty” or, as the New York Post put it, “as warm as winter in Siberia.”
After his brief conversation with Obama, Putin told reporters he has spoken with President-elect Donald Trump about improving relations with the U.S. Putin said Trump “reaffirmed his intent to normalize relations with Russia,” adding, “I naturally said the same.”