Saturday, February 10, 2007

Putin Warns United States Over Military Expansion On Russia's Borders

Claim : US Build Up "Even Greater Threat Than The Cold War"

There are plenty of well-placed fear and tension over the United States' advanced planning to take out Iran's nuclear energy facilities through a series of air-strikes, most likely via Israel, using ground-penetrating nuclear weapons. On the day a United Nations Security Council deadline for Iran to stop uranium enrichment, February 21, the US will have two carrier strike groups in position in the Persian Gulf.

But a second, far more troubling confrontational threat has fully emerged in the past week.

A possible full-blown clash between the United States and Russia, not only in retaliation for possibles strikes on Iran, but over the US' increasing military build-up on its European bases, close to Russia's borders, and the US announcements that it will expand the scope and reach of its 'missile defence' system into countries, literally, bordering with Russia territory.

In a move that has sent earthquake-like rumblings through the world's diplomatic and military communities, Russia's President Vladimir Putin has now come out and directly warned the United States, both subtly and starkly, that it has "overstepped its national borders in every way" as he warned of a new global nuclear arms race.

Putin's astounding remarks followed a flurry of similar 'back off' warnings from Russia's foreign and defence ministers in recent weeks.

From the Associated Press :
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Saturday that the United States' increased use of military force is creating a new arms race, with smaller nations turning toward developing nuclear weapons.

Speaking at a conference of the world's top security officials, including the Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, Putin said nations ''are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations.''

''One state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way,'' he told the 250 officials, including more than 40 defense and foreign ministers.

''This is nourishing an arms race with the desire of countries to get nuclear weapons,'' Putin said, but did not elaborate on specifics and did not mention the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The Russian leader also voiced concern about U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in eastern Europe -- likely in Poland and the Czech Republic -- and the expansion of NATO as possible challenges to Russia.

''The process of NATO expansion has nothing to do with modernization of the alliance or with ensuring security in Europe,'' Putin said.

''On the contrary, it is a serious factor provoking reduction of mutual trust.''

On the missile defense system, Putin said: ''I don't want to accuse anyone of being aggressive'' but suggested it would seriously change the balance of power and could provoke an unspecified response.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had little to say about Putin's remarks, noting only that ''he was very candid.''

Putin's spokesman Dimitry Peskov said the Russian leader did not intend to be confrontational, but acknowledged it was his harshest criticism of the United States since he was elected in March 2000.

''The reason for his comments is Russia's concern about the growing amount of conflicts and the malfunctioning of international law,'' Peskov told the AP.

Russia spent just $8 billion on military defence in 2001. In 2007, that budget has shot up to well over $30 billion, and the development of a new generation of nuclear submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles and aircraft carriers is underway.

The United States budget for 2007 will be in the vicinity of some 20 times the total Russian military budget. In comparison, Australia (a nation of only 20 million people, but with a land mass of similar size to the United States) will spend more than $18 billion in 2007, much of which will go towards making it a more useful, valuable military ally of the United States.

A prominent Russian general was quoted, on February 8, by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying, "NATO is expanding, and it is expanding directly toward Russia."

General Makhmut Gareyev, president of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, was reacting to the US plans to place key elements of its missile defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland.

The United States has claimed it needs missile defence in these two key NATO allied counties as part of its 'umbrella' world defence against the possible threat posed by Iranian and North Korean nuclear missiles.

But the Russians regard such claims as rubbish. They see clearly that the US wants to have the ability to knock Russian missiles out of the sky almost as soon as they are launched.

From the Financial Times :

A chill descended on relations between Washington and Moscow on Friday as Russia’s top defence officials criticised what they called US military expansion in Europe.

Sergei Ivanov, Russian defence minister and a possible successor to President Vladimir Putin, said he did not believe the Bush administration’s claims that its planned missile defence programme was aimed at protecting the US from Iran, North Korea or terrorist groups.

Speaking after meeting his Nato opposite numbers in Seville, Mr Ivanov spelled out Moscow’s plans to counteract the US programme.

“What is the real intention of these activities?” he asked. “This will not harm the Russian deterrent. We will develop our own strategic system, which will have the capability to surpass any missile system. We want to be absolutely sure that under no circumstances are we under pressure.”

But he added: “We will not get back in the arms race.”

Mr Ivanov’s comments came after Russia’s army chief of staff warned that expansion of the US military presence in Russia’s traditional zones of influence was a top security threat.

General Yuri Baluyevsky said Russia faced even greater military threats than during the cold war, and needed a new doctrine to respond to them.

Tensions over the missile defence programme have grown since Washington announced last month that it was negotiating installing a radar station for the scheme in the Czech Republic and interceptor rockets in Poland.

Mr Ivanov said the two countries, both former Soviet satellites, were too far away to play a part in disabling missiles from North Korea or Iran. “Take a look at the map,” he said. He added that he did not believe the system would be effective against terrorist groups.

“They just don’t need missiles,” he said. “They have other forms of delivery – human bodies and civilian aircraft.”

(US Defence Secretary Robert Gates) sought to soothe Russia’s concerns on the anti-missile scheme. “We have made it quite clear that it is not directed at them,” he said.