Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he has concerns that the U.S. ballistic missile defense system threatens Russia’s nuclear capability.
Putin made the remarks at the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi. The annual meeting was titled “Societies Between War and Peace: Overcoming the Logic of Conflict in Tomorrow’s World.” He said:
The use of the threat of a nuclear missile attack from Iran as an excuse, as we know, has destroyed the fundamental basis of modern international security – the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The United States has unilaterally seceded from the treaty. Incidentally, today we have resolved the Iranian issue and there is no threat from Iran and never has been, just as we said.
The thing that seemed to have led our American partners to build an anti-missile defence system is gone. It would be reasonable to expect work to develop the US anti-missile defence system to come to an end as well. What is actually happening? Nothing of the kind, or actually the opposite – everything continues.
Recently the United States conducted the first test of the anti-missile defence system in Europe. What does this mean? It means we were right when we argued with our American partners. They were simply trying yet again to mislead us and the whole world. To put it plainly, they were lying. It was not about the hypothetical Iranian threat, which never existed. It was about an attempt to destroy the strategic balance, to change the balance of forces in their favour not only to dominate, but to have the opportunity to dictate their will to all: to their geopolitical competition and, I believe, to their allies as well. This is a very dangerous scenario, harmful to all, including, in my opinion, to the United States.
In 2009, President Barack Obama scrapped a plan from President George Bush to build a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Kremlin criticized the system, “claiming it targeted Moscow’s nuclear arsenal.” Obama decided to concentrate on Iran’s short-range missiles.
People believed the move had to do with Obama’s re-set on the U.S.’s relationship with Russia. But the honeymoon ended after Russia invaded eastern Ukraine and annexed Crimea in March 2014.
Earlier this year, an official within the Obama administration told CNN he planned to speak with Gulf State allies about a ballistic missile defense system in case Iran becomes nuclear.
Russia’s relationship with Iran continues to strain its ties with the West. Both countries are allies with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They created their own coalition to bomb those they perceive as enemies of Assad, going against the larger U.S. led coalition that primarily targets the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
In September, Russia lashed out at reports that the U.S. planned to upgrade its nuclear weapons in Germany. The Kremlin warned the administration that Moscow will do what it needs to provide security to the country, but did not provide specifics.
“Unfortunately, in the case of these plans – and we can say with certainty that they are moving towards realisation – this can lead to a violation of the strategic balance in Europe,” said Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “Therefore, of course, that would require Russia to take counter-steps and countermeasures to restore balance and parity.”
But over the summer, Putin announced plans to upgrade Russia’s defense abilities due to these alleged threats by the West. Putin promised new military graduates plans “to spend 22 trillion rubles (over $400 billion) through 2020 to give the armed forces dozens of navy ships, hundreds of new planes and missiles and thousands of tanks and other weapons.” But his nuclear-armed intercontinental missile program has been delayed, which means the first missile will not be available for several months. There are no details regarding why it is taking so long.