RUSSIA FAULTS NATO IN ARMS BUILDUP
Kremlin says the West’s aggressive moves compel it to deploy 40 additional ICBMs by year’s end.
Russia’s addition of 40 long-range missiles to its nuclear arsenal this year doesn’t signal a new arms race or a threat to any country, Kremlin officials insisted Wednesday.
The expansion, part of a decade-long $500-billion modernization of Russian defense forces and weapons, has been forced on Moscow by aggressive moves by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“It is not Russia that approaches somebody else’s borders, it is NATO’s military infrastructure that approaches Russian borders,” Peskov was quoted as saying by the Tass news agency.
His comments followed criticism from the top diplomats of the United States, Germany and NATO after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced at a major arms show Tuesday that Russia would add the new intercontinental ballistic missiles “capable of penetrating any, even the most technologically advanced, missile defense systems.”
Putin’s high-profile announcement and fresh reminder to the West of Russia’s nuclear capabilities was seen as a reaction to reports that U.S. forces and heavy weapons will be stationed in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia at the request of those former Soviet states, which are now members of NATO.
The Baltic states and Poland have sought more visible NATO protection since Russia seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and sent fighters and weapons to aid separatists controlling other areas of southeastern Ukraine.
The Kremlin denies involvement in the pro-Russia insurgency, in which more than 6,400 have been killed in the last 14 months, but captured fighters and satellite surveillance show otherwise.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea has been condemned by the international community and prompted sanctions by the European Union and the United States. On Wednesday, European Union diplomats voted to extend their sanctions against Russia through January, a decision pending formal ratification by foreign ministers Monday.
Putin’s announcement that at least 40 more ICBMs would be deployed by year’s end, adding to the estimated 1,780 nuclear warheads stationed around the country, drew immediate criticism from the Western military alliance. A State Department report says Russia has 890 ICBMs, 515 of which are deployed.
“This nuclear saber-rattling by Russia is unjustified, destabilizing and it is dangerous,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said of Putin’s comments at the arms show, where more than 100 Russian manufacturers have their weapons on display.
Putin advisor Yuri Ushakov denied Russia was acting offensively.
“Russia is not entering an arms race. It is trying to provide a response to possible threats,” he said, reiterating the Kremlin view that the country is at risk of NATO aggression.