Amid nuclear talks with US, Putin says Russia’s military may turn to offense if questions about the Americans’ missile defense plans aren’t answered.
Russia and the US have not yet come to a new permanent deal
Speaking to reporters in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said US plans for a missile shield might keep the two nations from reaching a nuclear deal, and that Russia could be forced to develop new offensive weapons systems to counter it.
“The problem is that our American partners are building a missile shield and we are not building one,” said Putin.
He added that the shield could fundamentally change the military relationship between the two nations.
“There is a danger that our partners, by creating such ‘an umbrella,' will feel completely secure and thus can allow themselves to do what they want, disrupting the balance, and aggressiveness will rise immediately.”
Russian and US officials have been holding talks in Geneva on a successor to the START I treaty which set limits on the size of their nuclear arsenals.
The two sides had hoped to sign a deal before the old one's original expiration date, December 5th, but they have had to sign a temporary extension.
Reports from the talks, as well as recent comments made by Russian President Dimitri Medvedev and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, after a meeting on the sidelines of the Copenhagen climate summit, have suggested a deal is close.
But Putin's remarks may signal a last-minute hardening of Russia's position on the missile shield issue - one which some believed had been addressed.
In September, Obama told Russia that it would discontinue a plan initiated by the Bush administration to build components of a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Obama did say, however, that the US would keep researching other methods and locations for the shield which Washington says is meant to defend against attacks from rogue nations.
Russia, however, still sees any missile shield as a threat - one it now pledges to counter.
"Let the Americans hand over all their information on missile defense, and we'll be ready to hand over all the information on offensive weapons systems," said Putin.
Editor: Chuck Penfold