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Putin rattles sabre as nuclear pact collapses

RUSSIA-POLITICS

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his state of the nation address in Moscow on Wednesday. Photo: AFP / Alexander Nemenov

Putin rattles sabre as nuclear pact collapses

Russian President warns West that deploying missile launchers in Europe could ignite ‘tit for tat’ response

President Putin’s state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow this week was an extraordinary affair. While heavily focused on domestic social and economic development, Putin noted, predictably, the US decision to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and clearly outlined the red lines in regard to possible consequences of the move.

It would be naïve to believe that there would not be a serious counterpunch to the possibility of the US deploying launchers “suitable for using Tomahawk missiles” in Poland and Romania, only a 12-minute flight away from Russian territory. 

Putin cut to the chase: “This is a very serious threat to us. In this case, we will be forced – I want to emphasize this – forced to take tit-for-tat steps.”

Later that night, many hours after his address, Putin detailed what was construed in the US, once again, as a threat.

“Is there some hard ideological confrontation now similar to what was [going on] during the Cold War? There is none. We surely have mutual complaints, conflicting approaches to some issues, but that is no reason to escalate things to a stand-off on the level of the Caribbean crisis of the early 1960s”.

This was a direct reference to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 when President Kennedy confronted USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev over missiles deployed off the US mainland. 

The Russian Defense Ministry, meanwhile, has discreetly assured that conference calls with the Pentagon are proceeding as scheduled, every week, and that this bilateral dialogue is “working”.

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