Putin:'Mutual destruction'risk


Summary

In comments laden with Cold War imagery, the Kremlin leader accused the US of misrepresenting the true aim of the limited missile shield, which is to be based in NATO members Czech Republic and Poland.

"The threat of causing mutual damage and even destruction increases many times," Mr Putin said after a meeting with Czech President Vaclav Klaus in Moscow, Interfax and ITAR-TASS news agencies reported.

He scorned Washington's claim that the role of the US interceptor missiles would be to shoot down missiles from countries such as Iran or North Korea, rather than from Russia.

"Neither terrorists, whom they are preparing to defend against, nor Iran, nor North Korea have such a system," Mr Putin said. "To talk of terrorists is simply hilarious. They use other methods."

Moscow's opposition to the US deployment is steadily hardening, fuelling East-West tensions already heightened over differences on independence for Kosovo, Mr Putin's record on democracy, and Russian energy export policies.

Mr Putin stunned Western capitals yesterday when he announced suspension of Moscow's participation in the Soviet-era Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which imposes strict limits on troop deployments across the continent.

Mr Putin said this was in response to the planned US missile shield.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) called for clarification. The alliance's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, expressed "grave concern," saying the CFE treaty was "one of the cornerstones of European security".

The Pentagon insists the anti-missile system would defend against one-off threats and could have no effect against Russia's enormous nuclear missile arsenal.

But Mr Putin also dismissed this today, saying the range of the system would extend to the Ural mountains, covering the entire European section of Russia.

"These systems will control Russian territory up to the Urals if we do not take counter measures — and we will."

In another Cold War echo, Mr Putin compared the US anti-missile deployment to the stationing of Pershing II ballistic nuclear missiles in West Germany in the 1980s, a step that caused heated debate within NATO.

"The threat is absolutely the same," Mr Putin said. "This new element fundamentally changes the European security system."

Washington accuses Moscow of artificially ratching up tension, saying the proposed system could make no impact on Russia's military potential. Western analysts say the Kremlin hopes to use the issue to divide the NATO alliance.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complained yesterday Russia was applying Cold War logic to the missile defence issue and described accusations that the system was directed at Moscow as "ludicrous".


In comments laden with Cold War imagery, the Kremlin leader accused the US of misrepresenting the true aim of the limited missile shield, which is to be based in NATO members Czech Republic and Poland.

"The threat of causing mutual damage and even destruction increases many times," Mr Putin said after a meeting with Czech President Vaclav Klaus in Moscow, Interfax and ITAR-TASS news agencies reported.

He scorned Washington's claim that the role of the US interceptor missiles would be to shoot down missiles from countries such as Iran or North Korea, rather than from Russia.

"Neither terrorists, whom they are preparing to defend against, nor Iran, nor North Korea have such a system," Mr Putin said. "To talk of terrorists is simply hilarious. They use other methods."

Moscow's opposition to the US deployment is steadily hardening, fuelling East-West tensions already heightened over differences on independence for Kosovo, Mr Putin's record on democracy, and Russian energy export policies.

Mr Putin stunned Western capitals yesterday when he announced suspension of Moscow's participation in the Soviet-era Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which imposes strict limits on troop deployments across the continent.

Mr Putin said this was in response to the planned US missile shield.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) called for clarification. The alliance's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, expressed "grave concern," saying the CFE treaty was "one of the cornerstones of European security".

The Pentagon insists the anti-missile system would defend against one-off threats and could have no effect against Russia's enormous nuclear missile arsenal.

But Mr Putin also dismissed this today, saying the range of the system would extend to the Ural mountains, covering the entire European section of Russia.

"These systems will control Russian territory up to the Urals if we do not take counter measures — and we will."

In another Cold War echo, Mr Putin compared the US anti-missile deployment to the stationing of Pershing II ballistic nuclear missiles in West Germany in the 1980s, a step that caused heated debate within NATO.

"The threat is absolutely the same," Mr Putin said. "This new element fundamentally changes the European security system."

Washington accuses Moscow of artificially ratching up tension, saying the proposed system could make no impact on Russia's military potential. Western analysts say the Kremlin hopes to use the issue to divide the NATO alliance.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complained yesterday Russia was applying Cold War logic to the missile defence issue and described accusations that the system was directed at Moscow as "ludicrous".