If Russia and the US are engaged in another nuclear arms race now, then it is the fault of George W. Bush, who started it by withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
“The prerequisites for a new arms race were created after the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. This is obvious,” he said on Friday during his annual Q&A session with the media.
Putin was referring to a key international agreement reached in 1972, under which the US and Soviet Union pledged not to undermine one another’s nuclear deterrent by developing the means to intercept each other’s intercontinental ballistic missiles.
President George W. Bush’s administration withdrew from the ABMT in 2002, resulting in its termination. Russia has responded by taking measures to ensure that America’s antimissile shield won’t work well against Russian ICBMs, Putin explained.
“When one party unilaterally withdrew from the treaty and said it was going to create an anti-nuclear umbrella, the other party has to either create a similar umbrella – the necessity of which we are not sure about considering its questionable efficiency – or create effective ways to overcome this anti-ballistic missile system and improve its strike capabilities,” Russia’s president told the journalists.
Putin was commenting on a report on the state of Russia’s military presented by Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on Thursday, which included an update on the modernization of Russia’s nuclear deterrent.
Shortly afterwards, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that the US “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
The comments from the leaders of the world’s two primary nuclear powers have made some commenters nervous about the prospects for nuclear arms reduction and the future of New START treaty. The agreement, which calls for the number of nuclear warheads deployed by the US and Russia to be reduced, was signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and then-President Dmitry Medvedev.
Putin said the modernization of Russia’s military has been carried out “within the framework of our agreements,” including New START. He added that America has its own modernization program for nuclear weapons, including those deployed on foreign soil.
“In Turkey, in Britain, in the Netherlands a replacement of American tactical nuclear weapons is underway,” he said, addressing a BBC correspondent, who asked about the nuclear issue. “I hope that your program audiences and internet users know about that.”
The president added that, even if Russia is drawn into an arms race, it won’t spend more than it can afford, saying “we are fine with the situation and fulfill all our [military modernization] plans.”