Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied accusations he revived an arms race by unveiling Russia’s new nuclear deterrent. That was done by US President George W. Bush killing a 30-year-old missile treaty in 2002, he told NBC.
In an interview with NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today” on Thursday, the Russian leader brushed off claims in the Western media that by introducing new nuclear-powered missiles, including the hypersonic Sarmat, he has signaled a new arms race. The alarmist rhetoric that fills Western news outlets is just another form of propaganda, Putin said.
“My point of view is that the individuals saying that a new Cold War has started are not really analysts; they do propaganda,” he said, as translated by NBC. Putin blamed Washington’s 2002 withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) for escalating the confrontation. “If we are to speak of an arms race, then an arms race started precisely at that point”.
It was US President George W. Bush who withdrew from the ABM Treaty, which had been one of the main pillars of the détente and held for nearly 30 years. Bush argued that the treaty hindered the US’ ability to protect itself from “future terrorist or rogue state attacks.”
In the years following, the US has encircled Russia with its missile defense installations, extending its anti-missile shield to Romania and Poland, deploying for the first time a battery of Patriot long-range anti-aircraft system to Lithuania for war games.
The US nuclear build-up on Russia’s doorstep triggered a response from Moscow, which deployed its newest Iskander systems to its Kaliningrad exclave, citing the threat posed by US missile launchers deployed in Poland and Romania.
The path that led towards confrontation could have been avoided had the US agreed to cooperate on the development of anti-missile defenses with Russia – an offer repeatedly extended by Moscow. After Washington refused, Putin said he could not sit idle.
The Russian president went on that he still believes the two countries should focus on what they can do together. He mentioned the fight against common challenges to security such as terrorism.
“Instead of creating threats to one another, great powers should pool their efforts in protecting against terrorists,” he told Kelly.
Kelly raised the topic of speculation that the new weapon systems have not yet undergone any successful tests. Putin, who had used Thursday’s state of the nation address to unveil the weapons, dismissed the rumors.
“Every single weapon system that I have discussed today easily surpasses and avoids anti-missile defense systems,” Putin said, adding that while “some of them still have to be fine-tuned and worked on,” others are combat-ready. “One of them is already on combat duty. It’s available to the troops,” the Russian leader said.
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