Russia 'political grandstanding' on shield: NATO official
Russia's bid to build up its "striking forces", including nuclear weapons, if it fails to agree on missile defence with NATO is "political grandstanding", a senior NATO official said Thursday in Vilnius.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday in a CNN interview that if Russia's proposals on a planned NATO European missile shield system "are met with negative answers only" while additional threats appear, "Russia will have to ensure her own security".
Russia's expanded "striking forces" would include "new missile, nuclear technology," Putin said.
"We did not take it as a provocation," Lieutenant General Walter E. Gaskin told the Baltic News Service (BNS) responding to Putin's comments in Vilnius Thursday.
"What I think: a lot of that is political grandstanding," said Gaskin, who holds the title of Deputy Chairman, NATO Military Committee.
"We have not seen anything in a practical sense that the Russians have done to indicate that they want to re-engage in an arms race or not follow through the steps that they agreed to," Gaskin said.
Putin's Wednesday remarks came shortly after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned in his annual address of a possible new round of the arms race if the sides do not agree on the European missile defence shield.
NATO's Gaskin insisted the alliance of 28 states covering Europe, North America and Turkey wants a single, integrated missile defence system covering all its members.
"And as we see it, (we want) the missile defence that covers all the NATO nations in Europe and not a portion of them. And we believe this can be an integrated system, but we don't believe it as two separate systems, one system overlapping the other," Gaskin told AFP.
Russia and NATO agreed to deepen missile defence cooperation at last month's summit in Lisbon.
The Wall Street Journal reported that NATO leaders late last month rejected a proposal from Medvedev to unite Russia's missile defences with a shield being built by the West.
In Lisbon, Medvedev had warned the positive response of Russia to a missile defence shield in Europe depended on the quality of cooperation between Moscow and the Alliance.
A few hours before Putin's Wednesday interview with CNN, the Russian defence ministry said its new RS-24 ballistic missile would allow Russia to bypass missile defence systems.
© 2010 AFP