by Marcus Papadopoulos
The Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, last week issued what has become one of his customary trademark warnings by announcing that Russia will start to build offensive weapons to counter American global aggression.
Moscow and Washington are currently in discussions regarding a successor to the landmark Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty which was signed between the United States and the now defunct Soviet Union in 1991, and which expired last December.
Demonstrating once again that it is he, and not President Dmitri Medvedev, who is the real boss in the Kremlin, Mr Putin warned the US government that its development of a sea and land based missile defence system was detrimental to the signing of an arms deal between Russia and America to replace Start 1. He said: “The problem is that our American partners are developing missiles, and we are not.”
The Russian Prime Minister argued that the construction by Washington of an “umbrella” against “offensive strike systems” – a reference to Russia’s strategic deterrent – would break the nuclear balance the two superpowers with the result that the Americans “will do whatever they want and grow more aggressive”.
As a result, Mr Putin issued a belligerent caveat to the US: “In order to preserve a balance, while we aren’t planning to build a missile defence of our own, as it’s very expensive and its efficiency is not quite clear, we have to develop offensive strike systems.”
Last year, President Barack Obama announced that he was scrapping plans inherited from the Bush administration of installing elements of a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic to safeguard Europe from a ballistic missile attack by Iran. The Russians, however, consider the plan to be aimed at neutralising their nuclear arsenal.
That fear resulted in the Kremlin threatening to target ballistic missiles at any country in Eastern Europe which played host to an American defence shield.
Although Moscow welcomed Mr Obama’s decision to dispense with the Bush-era scheme, it has remained concerned about how Washington is forging ahead with developing, according to the White House, “increasingly capable sea and land based missile interceptors” to guard “against the growing ballistic missile threat from Iran”.
The Americans are currently modifying several of their navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers for ballistic missile defence operations which will see them armed with SM-3 interceptor missiles. The Pentagon has also installed the sea-based X-band radar on a modified floating oil platform.