RUS­SIA FAULTS NATO IN ARMS BUILDUP

Krem­lin says the West’s ag­gres­sive moves com­pel it to de­ploy 40 ad­di­tional ICBMs by year’s end.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Carol J. Wil­liams carol.wil­liams @latimes.com

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.

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