Vladimir Putin, currently Prime Minister of Russia and previously the Russian President, spoke on Tuesday of his country's need to develop weapons for use on an offensive basis, thereby maintaining a balance with the military might of the U.S.
Whilst stating that negotiations with the U.S. regarding a replacement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1), which was signed in 1991 when Russia was still the Soviet Union and expired December 5 this year, were progressing well, although the Canadian Press states that a new agreement by the year end is unlikely, Mr Putin told members of the press gathered in the city of Vladivostok on Russia's Pacific coast that his country needed weapons that were capable of counteracting the missile shield planned by the U.S.
According to CNN Mr Putin, officially President of Russia between May 2000 and May 2008 and rumored to be considering standing again for the office of President in 2012, said at the briefing in Vladivostok:If we want to retain the balance, we have to establish an exchange of information: Let the U.S. partners provide us information on their missile defense while we will give them information on our offensive weapons
Mr Putin, succeeded as President by current incumbent Dmitry Medvedev, also referred to the link between missile defense and offensive weapons when speaking of what he believes a "new" START-1 should contain and elaborating further on the dangers of a military imbalance:I think that we need certain rules on weapons limitation which could be equally understood, easily verifiable and transparent. The existence of those rules is better than their absence.
It was the balance of forces -- including missile defense, air defense and offensive weapons systems -- that preserved peace even during the Cold War.
Since we are not developing our own missile defense, there is a threat that our partners would feel totally secure having created an umbrella against our offensive systems. Then our partners might do whatever they want; the aggressiveness in real politics and economics would increase because of the broken balance
It was back in September notes Xinhuanet that U.S. President Obama announced his country would be abandoning the missile defense plans of his predecessor George W. Bush. Those plans involved Russia's western neighbor Poland hosting interceptor missiles and the Czech Republic hosting a radar system.
The decision in September to reverse the policy of the Bush administration was certainly welcomed in Moscow. However the Canadian Press explains that Russian officials are eager to learn more about the sea-and land-based systems the U.S. intends to deploy instead of the missile defense shield planned by former President Bush.
Prime Minster Putin, once an officer in the KGB, the Soviet Union's much-feared national security agency, has reportedly been accused of setting his country's foreign policy agenda, a task which is officially the responsibility of President Medvedev.
CNN reports that President Medvedev recently spoke to three TV channels in Russia and emphasized that an updated START-1 would not mean that the world's largest country by area would stop developing weapons for offensive purposes.
The 44-year-old President spoke of the desirability of a nuclear-free world, cautioning that arms reduction is a gradual process and observing that there are countries wanting to join the "nuclear club", of which the U.S. and Russia are the most prominent members, who should be included in talks on arms reduction.